A massive storm system is headed for the Plains today and is expected to produce blizzard-like conditions in Nebraska, Colorado and Kansas and ignite thunderstorms in Oklahoma and Texas. According to AccuWeather.com, the system could bring up to 18 inches of snow in some areas of the central High Plains while drenching the central and southern Plains with between 0.5 and 3 inches of rain.

Blizzard warnings in effect

Storm system to bring blizzard, storms to the PlainsThe major winter storm is moving through Wyoming and western Colorado today and is expect to affect eastern Colorado this evening before pushing into Kansas and Nebraska. Increasing wind, low visibility and large snowdrifts can be expected to slow travel.

This morning the National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning for northeastern Colorado, northwestern Kansas and portions of southwestern Nebraska. A blizzard watch was also issued for parts of west and central Nebraska:

Storm system to bring blizzard, storms to the Plains

Accumulating snow will also impact eastern Nebraska and Iowa. Snow may reach as far east as Wisconsin and Illinois.

A storm this size, combined with the available energy and moisture, has the potential of delivering the heaviest snow of the winter.

Central and Southern Plains prepare for rain

Storm system to bring blizzard, storms to the PlainsRain is also expected to drench areas from Kansas to Texas on Friday, with severe weather possible in Oklahoma and Texas. This system follows last week’s rain that left up to 6 inches of rain in some areas.

Little rain is expected to impact the western Texas Panhandle once again.

Later this evening, thunderstorms will erupt in parts of Oklahoma and Texas, bringing with them the threat of large hail, high winds and flash flooding. Tornadoes cannot be ruled out.

Storm system to bring blizzard, storms to the PlainsThe rain is welcomed to the southern Plains following a historic drought that plagued the area in 2011. Gene Hall, Public Relations director for the Texas Farm Bureau, pointed out in his blog that last September more than 85 percent of Texas as in an exceptional drought. It would take an estimated 24 to 28 inches of rain over a six-month period to reach drought-breaking potential for those acres affected.  The USDA’s latest Drought Monitor, released this morning, showed just 27 percent of Texas in exceptional drought.

Storm system to bring blizzard, storms to the Plains

In 2011, drought drove more than 150,00 head of Texas cattle to greener pastures. Nationally, beef cattle numbers have plunged to historic levels. Texas, the nation's largest beef producer, reported a loss of decline of more than 650,000.

“That’s the smallest cow herd since 1960,” Dr. David Anderson, AgriLife Extension livestock marketing economist said.  ”This decline was fueled by the drought, which left 2011 as the record holding driest year on record in Texas.”