CINCINNATI (AP) -- An icy blast of wintry weather was bearing down on Ohio even as much of the state was unseasonably warm Thursday.
Temperatures in the 50s and 60s were expected to plunge by the weekend, some by more than 40 degrees.
"As a cold front moves through, that's going to bring rain, changing to a wintry mix, changing to all snow Friday," said Mike Kurz, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Wilmington, in southwest Ohio.
A mix of freezing rain, sleet and snow was expected late Thursday or early today for most of Ohio, with significant snowfall later today in the southwest and central regions, in some cases during peak afternoon commutes.
Kurz said a swath of Ohio in the Interstate 70 and 71 corridors from Cincinnati through Columbus is likely to see the most snow. Most counties there are expected to get 2 to 6 inches by tonight, with much colder temperatures falling into the teens in some places.
Ohio's AAA travel club expects a busy day, with calls for help from thousands of stranded motorists likely.
"We're ready for the storm," spokesman Kimberly Schwind said. "We're calling in extra crews because we're anticipating skyrocketing numbers of calls."
She said besides slick and icy conditions, sharp temperature drops can cause low tire pressure, leading to spinouts and flat tires, and dead batteries are also a problem in sudden cold. AAA recommends that motorists gas up in case they get stranded.
Meanwhile, flood watches were issued across southeast Ohio, with rain and sleet expected.
Kurz said it's difficult to make an overall prediction on what kind of winter Ohioans can expect, since there are no strong global weather factors such as an El Nino that can have an impact.
He said there likely will be a lot of "short-term variability" in the weeks ahead.
"You kind of wait and see what it brings," Kurz said.