Two winter systems blast the U.S. with heavy snow, gusty winds

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CHICAGO, Feb 22 (Reuters) - Two major winter storms will dump heavy snow and blow fierce winds in the Midwest, New England and Southwestern United States on Tuesday and into the next couple of days, wreaking havoc on road travel while improving ski conditions in parts of Colorado.

One system was expected to bring more than a foot of snow and wind gusts of more than 40 miles (64 km) an hour to an area from California through Nevada and into Colorado from Tuesday through Thursday afternoon, the National Weather Service (NWS) warned.

Some higher spots in southwestern Colorado could see 3 feet of snow accumulation over the next couple of days, the service said.

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Hazardous travel conditions due to icy and snow-packed roadways were expected throughout the area, the NWS said.

"A lot of these mountain towns are driven off the ski industry so they are able to handle it," National Weather Service Grand Junction Meteorologist Kris Sanders said.

Ski resorts and skiers will welcome the fresh snow. The snow season began slowly, but picked up with several strong storms around the new year. In January, however, the region did not get a significant snow fall.

"So something like this is definitely helping. Much appreciated," Sanders said.

Another system was making its way across the Dakotas through Wisconsin and into New England where snow totals could reach 8 inches and 35 mph wind gusts on Tuesday and into Wednesday, the National Weather Service said.

The storm forced numerous school district in Wisconsin and Minnesota to cancel classes on Tuesday.

Forecasters warned that driving will be treacherous during the evening commute as blowing snow will make roadways slick and reduce visibility.

Sleet and ice were also in the forecast for northern Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas while a region from Alabama up through Ohio and into New York was expecting heavy rains that could cause flooding, forecasters warned.

Temperatures will be 20 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit (-6 to 1 degrees Celsius) below average in the Northern Rockies, Great Plains and parts of the Upper Mississippi Valley, with some spots seeing record and dangerously cold readings, the NWS said.

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Reporting by Brendan O'Brien; Editing by Aurora Ellis

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