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U.S. blizzard, possible tornadoes forecast in nasty weather week

By Kevin Murphy

KANSAS CITY, Kansas (Reuters) - Forecasters called for strong hail and possible tornadoes in western Kansas and a blizzard in four other states on Monday in the first of what are expected to be several days of nasty weather in the middle of the country.

The blizzard was expected to hit Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming on Monday. An Arctic cold front has triggered winter weather warnings over most of Colorado, said National Weather Service meteorologist Jim Kalina.

Meanwhile, warm air from the south mixing with cold air from Colorado is expected to cause severe weather in western Kansas, including possible tornadoes, said weather service meteorologist Matt Gerard, based in Dodge City, Kansas.

"It's a clash of air masses going on," Gerard said, adding that forecasts call for large hail in western Kansas.

Denver and its urban area could get up to 11 inches of snow overnight and through Tuesday, said Kalina. He said temperatures could plunge some 40 degrees from the mid-60s on Monday to well below freezing when the front moves through.

Areas from Denver to Rapid City, South Dakota; Casper, Wyoming; and Scottsbluff, Nebraska are expected to see blizzard conditions between Monday night and Tuesday, with plunging temperatures, high winds and heavy snow, according to Accuweather.com. The blizzard is forecast to move into north central Nebraska and central Minnesota later Tuesday into Wednesday.

South Dakota transportation officials advised travelers to move up travel plans to reach intended destinations during daylight hours, and be prepared to stay in until the storm passes. Heavy snowfall is expected, from 3 to 16 inches in the state, with winds up to 40 miles per hour.

The nasty weather will move toward more populated areas on Tuesday evening, with hail, damaging winds and some possibility of tornadoes predicted around Kansas City, Oklahoma City, and the Dallas-Fort Worth area in Texas, according to Robert Thompson, lead forecaster with the National Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma.

Forecasters expect the front to hit Arkansas Wednesday afternoon and evening, with a line of thunderstorms expected to bring as much as three inches of rain and damaging winds, according to the National Weather Service.

The tornado season in the United States typically starts in the Gulf Coast states in the late winter, and then moves north with the warming weather, peaking around May and trailing off by July.

(Reporting by Kevin Murphy in Kansas City, Suzi Parker in Arkansas, Keith Coffman in Denver and Mary Wisniewski in Chicago; Editing by Scott Malone, Sofina Mirza-Reid, Greg McCune and James Dalgleish)

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