By Svea Herbst-Bayliss and Ross Kerber
BOSTON (Reuters) - New England faced a third straight weekend of storms dumping a messy mix of wet snow and freezing rain across the region, meteorologists said Saturday.
Another storm in the West is rolling out of the Rocky Mountains this weekend and could create blizzard conditions in Colorado, according to a National Weather Service advisory.
Much of the Midwest is already blanketed with snow. More than a foot of snow was reported in Kansas on Thursday, forcing airports to cancel hundreds of flights and leaving motorists stranded on highways.
Starting on Saturday, the New England coast - from northern Connecticut to southern Maine - was expecting an extended mix of snow and rain, according to a National Weather Service advisory, while inland areas could see a significant accumulation of snow.
Wet snow and freezing rain were expected Saturday afternoon through Sunday evening in southern New Hampshire, northern Rhode Island and much of Massachusetts.
The Boston metropolitan area could see from 2 to 5 inches of snow, while parts of central Massachusetts may get up to 12 inches, said National Weather Service meteorologist John Foley.
The heaviest snowfall was expected Saturday night through Sunday morning, with 1 to 2 inches per hour possible, the weather service said.
Despite the forecasts, some residents were taking it in stride, wondering what all the fuss was about.
"Look, it's winter, it's New England, it snows. Happens every time!" said Steve Scardino, a software sales executive and lifelong New Englander from Hopkinton, Massachusetts.
But others were not so sanguine.
Tom Meek of Cambridge said he had cancelled dinner plans with relatives two weekends in a row because of bad weather and this time, he would just take his chances.
"We can't let Mother Nature impound us again," Meek said.
NStar Electric president, Craig Hallstrom, said the utility's emergency response plan had been well tested this winter.
The weather service said the storm may bring sleet and freezing rain to the Appalachians and mid-Atlantic states as well, with thunderstorms expected in the Southeast. It likely will dump rain from New York City to Philadelphia, it said.
The storm barreled eastward for the weekend after pummeling the Midwest during the week. In Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Sly James said about 60 buses were stuck on snowbound streets on Friday, and even tow trucks were immobilized.
"It's still an ongoing process to get people off the roads," he told CNN.
Kansas bore the brunt of the bad weather on Thursday, with up to 15 inches of snow in some parts of the state, according to the National Weather Service.
A closed 200-mile (323-km) stretch of Interstate 70 in central Kansas was strewn with cars stuck in snow.
National Guard troops were dispatched in Humvees to look for stranded motorists along the interstate and other highways, said Sharon Watson, a spokeswoman for Kansas emergency management services.
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon and Kansas Governor Sam Brownback declared states of emergency because of possible power outages and generally hazardous travel.
Drought-stricken farmers in the Great Plains, one of the world's largest wheat-growing areas, welcomed the moisture, although experts said even more rain or snow would be needed to ensure healthy crops.
Meanwhile, in the Southeast, a "rich supply of Gulf moisture" will drive heavy rainfall from the Florida Panhandle east to the Carolinas on Saturday, the National Weather Service advisory said.
(Additional reporting by Kevin Murphy, Ian Simpson, Kevin Gray, Steve Gorman and Chris Francescani; Editing by Vicki Allen and Gunna Dickson)