A January storm that brought heavy rain to central Missouri on Friday afternoon will transition to frozen precipitation Saturday, with up to three inches of snow in Columbia and more possible just to the northwest.

A flash flood watch issued Friday for all central Missouri counties overlapped with a winter storm warning or winter weather advisory that will take effect at midnight Friday and continue through midnight Saturday. The forecast includes a possibility of high winds of 35 mph or stronger.

Columbia called in a 22-person public works plow crew to begin work at 1 a.m. Saturday and directed a new 22-person crew to report at 7 a.m. Temperatures are expected to fall through the evening hours and be below freezing by about 5 a.m.

According to a National Weather Service forecast discussion, the storm is the result of a nearly stationary front just south of Columbia. Before the rain turns to ice and snow, many areas will see rainfall amounts of 2 to 4 inches, with isolated areas receiving as much as 6 inches of rain since Thursday night, the discussion stated.

“This will be a powerful, dangerous, multi-faceted storm for the state of Missouri,” National Weather Service Warning Coordination Meteorologist Kevin Deitsch said in a release issued by the State Emergency Management Agency. “First, the warmer side of the storm system will bring life-threatening flash flooding and renewed river flooding to much of the central and eastern portions of the state. Additionally, a few severe thunderstorms capable of locally damaging winds to 60 mph will be possible into Friday evening. Finally, as cold air wraps into the system, freezing rain changing to snow will accumulate across the northwest half of the state Friday night into Saturday.”

Boone, Audrain, Callaway, Cole and Moniteau counties are under a winter weather advisory, with up to 0.1 inch of ice and 1 to 3 inches of snow possible. Cooper, Howard and Randolph counties are under a winter storm warning, with up to 0.2 inches of ice and 2 to 4 inches of snow likely.

Further to the south, the storm's greatest dangers are hurricane-force winds and heavy rain, the Associated Press reported.

The National Storm Prediction Center said more than 18 million people in Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma will be at an enhanced risk of storms that could include strong tornadoes and flooding rains. The area includes several major Texas cities including Dallas, Houston and Austin.

In a briefing early Friday, the National Weather Service said the storms could bring wind gusts of up to 80 mph or faster, the speed of a Category 1 hurricane.

Wicked weather also will pose a threat to Alabama and Georgia as the system moves eastward on Saturday, forecasters said.

On Alabama's Gulf Coast, Baldwin County canceled school activities including sporting events that were scheduled for Saturday. The weather service warned of flooding and the potential for 10-foot-high waves on beaches, where northern visitors escaping the cold are a common sight during the winter.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

rkeller@columbiatribune.com

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