A winter storm dumping up to 10 inches of snow on the region is predicted to hit around midnight tonight, officials said.
National Weather Service meteorologist John Sikora said a "double-barrel-type system" featuring one low-temperature system traveling just behind another will bring "anywhere from 6 to 10 inches of snow on average, but there could be more in the higher elevations."
The NWS has issued a winter storm watch for Randolph, Barbour, Upshur, Pocahontas and Webster counties, warning of heavy snow and 5 to 15 mph winds with gusts up to 30 mph.
Today will be "mainly a rain day," Sikora said, adding that the storm will "switch over to snow about midnight." The snow will continue all day Wednesday and into Thursday, when it should begin to taper off, he said.
The snow totals will be "very elevation dependent," Sikora noted, saying the Elkins area could receive "anywhere from 6 to 10 inches on average, but there could be more in the higher elevations."
The NWS is calling for a high of 45 degrees today, but temperatures are expected to hover in the 20s and 30s from tonight through Thursday.
Across the country, Monday, the National Weather Service issued Winter Storm Saturn warnings for a long swath stretching across the Upper Midwest from North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota, then southeastward into western and southern Wisconsin, northeastern Iowa and northern Illinois.
"There's quite a variance (in precipitation) depending on where you are, but overall it's a pretty large storm system," said Dave Kellenbenz, a weather service meteorologist in Grand Forks, N.D.
North Dakota took the brunt of the storm early Monday. In the northeast part of the state, Devils Lake had 11 inches of snow by midmorning, and a foot of snow fell in Sarles about 60 miles to the north. In southeastern North Dakota and parts of eastern South Dakota, freezing rain that coated roads was more of a problem but there were no immediate reports of major accidents.
No travel was advised in several North Dakota counties, while many schools started classes late or canceled them for the day, as did a handful in Minnesota.
Morning commuters in the Twin Cities area got a foretaste of the storm as they were greeted with up to an inch of snow. While rush-hour traffic slowed on many major metro highways, few accidents were reported.
The relative lack of problems prompted Lt. Eric Roseke, spokesman for the Minnesota State Patrol, to drop his plan to tweet accident totals, as he customarily does in major snowstorms.
Few delays were reported at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
Morning snowfall totals reached 4 inches in Vesta, Wanamingo and a few other parts of southern Minnesota, but only 1.4 inches in Minneapolis. Still, the weather service said the snowfall was expected to intensify in the afternoon and evening.
More than 10 inches of snow was possible from northwestern Minnesota down into southwestern Wisconsin, including the Twin Cities, by today evening, according to the weather service.
As the storm moves east, Milwaukee and other areas in southeastern Wisconsin could get as much as 6 to 10 inches of snow on today. The Chicago area and other parts of northern Illinois were forecast to get 7 to 10 inches by tonight.
The weather service warned that the greatest impact in the Chicago area would be felt during this evening's rush hour, and that travel through Chicago's O'Hare and Midway airports was likely to be significantly affected today.