Potent storm slams California with snow, rain, wind; wintry weather spreads across Plains, Midwest

Wednesday updates: Read our latest weather news here.

Tuesday may be the first full day of spring, but that isn’t stopping parts of the country from California to the Plains and the Southeast from seeing wet, cold weather.

A potent storm slammed into California on Tuesday morning, bringing howling winds along with driving rain and heavy snow to the state. Mountainous regions of the Golden State are expecting heavy snow of up to 5 feet on Tuesday and Wednesday; wind gusts of up to 70 mph were already reported.

In the central U.S., winter weather advisories and winter storm warnings were also in effect across portions of the Plains and Midwest on Tuesday; snow accumulations of up to 5 inches and slick roads are expected.

Elsewhere, sub-freezing temperatures were reported across the South during the early morning hours on Tuesday, the National Weather Service said. However, warmer temperatures are expected to spread across the Mississippi Valley on Wednesday and Thursday, reaching the Atlantic Seaboard into Friday.

Here’s what you need to know for Tuesday.

California could see 5 feet of snow

A winter storm warning is in effect Tuesday in the Sierra Nevada region, mainly at higher elevations above 4,000 feet. Heavy snow of up to 5 feet is possible, along with near-hurricane force wind gusts.

Travel in the area could be “impossible,” according to the National Weather Service. Wind chills as low as 20 degrees below zero were expected, which can quickly result in hypothermia.

And farther south, snow is also expected in Santa Barbara County's interior mountains. Up to 2 feet of snow is possible in areas above 6,000 feet, while 10 inches is possible in areas above 3,500 feet.

Wind gusts of 70 mph have been reported Tuesday morning in Southern California. Snow and strong winds could cause “significant travel delays” in the area, according to the weather service. People who must travel should keep an extra flashlight, food and water in their vehicles, authorities said.

Heavy rain was the story Tuesday at lower elevations. Ponding water shut down multiple lanes of U.S. 101 in downtown Los Angeles before dawn, and there were numerous reports of cars being disabled by freeway potholes.

The weather service said the storm is a Pacific low-pressure system interacting with California’s 12th atmospheric river since late December.

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Snow, freezing rain spread across the Plains and Midwest

A winter weather advisory and a winter storm warning were in effect in Minnesota and the Dakotas on Tuesday afternoon and will continue into Wednesday. Ice accumulations are expected, and snow could reach up to 5 inches in some areas.

Blowing snow could limit visibility for drivers and impact the evening commute, the weather service warned. Travelers should expect slippery road conditions.

A winter weather advisory is also in effect in Nebraska until Tuesday afternoon; freezing rain, snow and other mixed precipitation are possible.

Freezing temperatures hit the South

A major swath of the Southeast from Virginia to Mississippi was blanketed by a freeze warning on Tuesday morning. Temperatures dipped into the 20s across portions of the region, the weather service reported.

Much warmer weather is expected in the South by Wednesday and Thursday. Temperatures are forecast to soar into the 80s in many areas by Thursday.

Winter storm tracker

National weather radar

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Tuesday weather forecast: California, Midwest, Plains to see snow