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Winter storm barrels west
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MONROE - A monster winter storm is barreling toward the region, with one computer model predicting as much as 22 inches of snow at Janesville by the time the whole thing is over late Wednesday or early Thursday.

But the mass and potential energy of the storm had forecasters Sunday scrambling to divine its exact course - even as grim winter-weather warnings were issued for Green and Lafayette counties, and much of Wisconsin and Illinois.

"These models can change and we just can't be certain, but somebody's gonna get hit," WGN TV Forecaster Jim Ramsey told the Monroe Times Sunday night. "Be prepared for a heck of a big snow, but at the moment, we don't know how big, and I'd advise everyone to monitor the forecast."

The area could see white-out conditions and 20 to 30 mph winds Tuesday night and early Wednesday, along with very heavy snows, though Ramsey said we may be spared from the worst of an initial "warm-air, invection burst" of snow Monday afternoon.

As of Sunday night, however, a Winter Weather Advisory remained in effect for the period from 3 p.m. Monday to 3 p.m. Tuesday, while a Winter Storm Watch was in effect for the entire region from Tuesday afternoon through Wednesday.

The National Weather Service predicted snow accumulations of 4 to 6 inches for late Monday and into Tuesday "with potential for 9 to 13 inches later Tuesday into Wednesday."

The NWS also says to expect: "...Visibilities under a mile with slippery roads Monday into Tuesday ... significant blowing and drifting with near blizzard conditions in open areas Tuesday into Wednesday."

The heavier snow, Ramsey agreed, will roll in early Tuesday night into Wednesday night, along with the high winds. The prediction of 22 inches for Janesville was from one "RPM" computer model, and there are many from which to choose, said Ramsey, noting that, despite advances in technologies, forecasting remains a vital but far from exact science.

"Now, it appears to heading right for our part of the Midwest," said Ramsey. "We know it will be here, we just don't know how bad it will be."

The storm now on everyone's radar formed from "a big piece of energy" out over the Pacific Ocean, which then blew through Northern California, only to reform and gather steam over the northern plains, he said.

Ramsey said he and his colleagues across the Midwest are putting plenty of time and computer energy into sorting through the data. They know that, especially at this time of the year, it's the kind of thing that has everyone talking.

"To tell you the truth, I can't wait until Tom (Skilling) gets in here to take a look at it," Ramsey said of his colleague, WGN's well-known chief meteorologist. "Tom can see more in a jet stream than most of us can see on their surface maps."