A major winter storm was set to move out of the Rocky Mountains overnight and into the Nebraska Panhandle by Friday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service.

The weather service posted winter storm watches and warnings across much of the northern Rockies and Plains, including northwest Nebraska.

AccuWeather Inc., The World-Herald's weather consultant, was predicting that the storm would evolve into a blizzard as it emerged from the northern Rockies.

The weather forecasting company cautioned that travel could become difficult on western Interstate highways, including I-80, I-70 and to the north along I-90.

As the storm pushes northeasterly, it could bring freezing drizzle to the Nebraska Panhandle, including I-80. By this afternoon, blowing snow was expected in the northern Panhandle and northwest Nebraska.

The National Weather Service was projecting about 4 to 8 inches of snow in the northern Nebraska Panhandle and lesser amounts across the southern Panhandle. AccuWeather said snowfall totals in northwest Nebraska could approach 1 foot.

Strong north winds could create visibility problems with blowing snow, and they will contribute to a plunge in wind chills.

Daytime highs today in western Nebraska were forecast to range from the mid-20s in the north to mid-30s along I-80.

After nightfall, temperatures were forecast to drop into the single digits. Wind chills could range as low as 25 degrees below zero.

The storm was expected to deal a glancing blow to Denver and fully miss Omaha and the Twin Cities.

Contact the writer: 402-444-1102, nancy.gaarder@owh.com

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