Iowa braces for blizzard as closely watched caucuses near

Half of Iowa is under a blizzard watch set to go into effect just hours after the state's closely watched caucuses. Up to a foot of snow is forecast to fall in some areas by Wednesday.

Story highlights

  • Half of Iowa is under a blizzard watch set to begin hours after the state's caucuses
  • Forecasters say the storm is likely to hit after Iowa caucuses
  • Blizzard conditions could snarl commutes Tuesday and make travel "nearly impossible"

(CNN)No matter which candidates win in Iowa, their supporters won't have much time to celebrate before they have to hunker down and brace for a blizzard.

A significant winter storm is expected to hit parts of the Hawkeye State late Monday, the National Weather Service said. Forecasters say the storm is likely to start after the closely watched Iowa caucuses end.
The first vote in the race for the White House isn't getting snowed out. But about 3 million people across the region are under a blizzard watch that stretches from western Nebraska through half of Iowa and into southeast South Dakota and southern Minnesota, CNN meteorologist Taylor Ward said. The blizzard watch begins at midnight Monday in western Iowa (1 a.m. ET Tuesday) and starts at 3 a.m. (4 a.m. ET) Tuesday in central parts of the state.
Another 11 million people will be under a winter storm watch or warning as the system moves out of the western United States, across the Rockies and through the Midwest early this week, Ward said.
Weather forecast from Sunday to Tuesday
Iowa caucus meetings for Democrats and Republicans are set to begin at 7 p.m. (8 p.m. ET) Monday. Official tallies could be wrapped up between 10 and 11 p.m. (11 p.m.-midnight ET).
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Snow will move into the western part of Iowa during evening hours Monday, Ward said, but the brunt of the storm will hit overnight and on Tuesday.
Snow accumulations of between 6 inches and 1 foot are expected, with isolated higher amounts possible in some areas, Ward said. Southeastern areas of Iowa will see significantly less snowfall, as warmer temperatures should bring rain to that region.
Forecasters warned that heavy snowfall could hit during morning commutes on Tuesday.
"Extremely hazardous travel conditions will develop," the National Weather Service said. "Travel may become nearly impossible at times. Please reconsider any travel plans."
Earlier this month, a staffer for Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson died during a winter storm after the van he was driving hit a patch of ice and flipped on its side near Atlantic, Iowa.