Today's weather news: Snow records in California; tornado danger later this week in central US

A vehicle drives past a snowbank as snow falls in the Sierra Nevada mountains on March 28, 2023, in Mammoth Lakes, California.

Heavy snow and fierce winds were making their way across the West on Wednesday, moving from California to Nevada, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

The storm was yet another in a series of potent systems that have slammed into California over the past several months. On Wednesday, an all-time record for snow was set at the Mammoth Mountain ski area, and a record snowpack was also measured in the Sierra.

Additional snow accumulations of up to 2 feet were still possible in parts of northern California on Wednesday, making travel difficult to "impossible," the National Weather Service said. Wintry weather will also impact mountainous areas of Southern California.

The storm impacting the Western states is expected to spread east in the coming days, bringing severe weather to the Mississippi Valley and the Great Plains later this week, according to AccuWeather meteorologists.

And in the South and East, freeze watches and warnings were in place for early Thursday in several states.

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Snow records set in California

Winter storm conditions were moving across the West on Wednesday, extending from California to Wyoming.

In California, the Mammoth Mountain ski resort in the eastern Sierra picked up 28 inches of snow since Tuesday. That set an all-time record of 695 inches (nearly 58 feet) of snow for the season at the resort's main lodge. "It's officially the snowiest season on record!," the resort said on its website, adding that "it's deep out there."

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The Palisades ski resort near Lake Tahoe is also nearing an all-time snow record and has announced plans to keep some slopes open until the Fourth of July.

The heavy snow set another record this week: As of Tuesday, the water content of the central Sierra snowpack was 228% of the April 1 average, a benchmark for its historical peak, according to the state Department of Water Resources.

Winter storm warnings and winter weather advisories remained in effect across a swath of northern California as of midday Wednesday. A winter storm warning was in effect in the Shasta Lake area, and snow accumulations of up to 2 feet were expected.

Farther south, accumulations of up to a foot were possible on higher peaks of the Santa Barbara County interior mountains.

In southwest Montana, a winter weather advisory was in effect beginning at noon on Wednesday; snow accumulations of up to 9 inches were possible for higher elevations.

And parts of Nevada are under a winter weather advisory from early Wednesday, and snow accumulations up to 9 inches and winds gusting up to 50 mph were possible.

Severe storms, tornadoes possible in central U.S.

The storm that's walloping the West will move into the central U.S. Thursday and Friday. While severe thunderstorms and the chance for tornadoes are possible both days, the bigger threat will be Friday in the mid-Mississippi Valley and mid-South. States most at risk of storms Friday include:

  • Iowa

  • Missouri

  • Illinois

  • Arkansas

  • Tennessee

  • Mississippi

The National Weather Service said 16.8 million people live in the highest risk zone, and more than 66 million people overall should be on alert Friday. Big cities in the highest danger area include Memphis, St. Louis, Des Moines and Little Rock.

Freeze watches, warnings in the South, East

Chilly conditions were also impacting portions of the southern and eastern U.S. Freeze watches and warnings were in effect in patches across the South and East for Thursday morning, including parts of:

  • Tennessee

  • Virginia

  • Maryland

  • West Virginia

Subfreezing temperatures as low as 30 degrees were expected, the National Weather Service said. "Frost and freeze conditions will kill crops, other sensitive vegetation and possibly damage unprotected outdoor plumbing," the weather service warned.

Winter storm tracker

National Weather Radar

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Today's weather forecast: California snow; storm threats moving east