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Major winter storm brewing for southwestern U.S.

By Sean Morris, CNN
updated 5:06 PM EST, Sun December 18, 2011
Between 12 and 15 inches of snow is expected to fall on portions of the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles.
Between 12 and 15 inches of snow is expected to fall on portions of the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Up to 16 inches of snow could fall in Texas, Oklahoma Panhandle regions
  • NEW: Winter storm watches and warnings are issued for portions of five states
  • NEW: Whiteout conditions are near-zero visibility could occur, forecasters say
  • Travel could be dangerous, if not impossible, across the region

(CNN) -- An early season winter storm is brewing in the Southwest and is expected to bring blizzard conditions and heavy snow accumulations of over a foot to the southern High Plains on Monday, making travel across the region dangerous, if not impossible.

The National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning on Sunday for the northwest Texas Oklahoma panhandles, where a foot to 16 inches of snow is expected to fall Monday.

Winds of 35 to 45 mph will accompany the snow for much of the storm, with gusts of up to 50 mph possible, forecasters said. The high winds combined with heavy and blowing snow is expected to result in near-zero visibility on Monday afternoon.

A blizzard watch was also in effect for eastern New Mexico, where as much as 8 inches of snow, combined with 45-mph wind gusts, will likely cause whiteout conditions across the region on Monday.

Winter storm watches and warnings were also issued for much of New Mexico, extreme northwestern Oklahoma, southeastern Colorado and southwestern and south-central Kansas.

Snow accumulations of 6 to 12 inches and winds gusting up to 40 mph will reduce visibilities to less than a quarter of a mile at times, forecasters said.

The heaviest snowfall and strongest winds are expected Monday morning through Monday night and into the early morning hours of Tuesday, the weather service said.

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