Weather Outlook for Memorial Day Weekend

May 28, 2010; 1:07 AM ET
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Memorial Day Weekend is almost here. That means millions of people will be traveling to visit friends and family and spending time outdoors at cookouts, parades or just relaxing on a beach this weekend.

As far as the weather goes, two main storm systems will affect the nation through the holiday weekend. One will become almost stationary over the Southeast, while the other moves slowly eastward from the Rockies into the Midwest.

Both of these systems will produce showers and thunderstorms that could disrupt outdoor plans. These systems will also influence which parts of the country will be chilly, which will be warm, and what areas will be affected by high winds and a potential wildfire threat.

Here is a look at what to expect across the country, region-by-region:

East

Widespread showers and thunderstorms affecting the East through Friday will become consolidated mainly over the Southeast this weekend. This will happen as drier, cooler air spreads southward into the Northeast and mid-Atlantic.

So for people who will be spending Memorial Day weekend in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic, the weather looks to stay dry much of the time.

There could, however, be a few isolated showers or thunderstorms that pop up in the mountains from northeastern Pennsylvania into northern New England over the weekend. There is also a chance that the storm moving from the Rockies into the Midwest makes it far enough east to bring showers and thunderstorms to the Appalachians Monday.

Temperatures will be quite a bit cooler early this weekend in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic than they've been for the past few days with highs falling comfortably back into the 70s in many places. Sunday into Monday, it will start to warm back up.

People in the Southeast could contend with a shower or thunderstorm just about any day of the holiday weekend. Be sure to check your local forecast and radar before heading outdoors. Stay alert for rapidly changing sky conditions, and seek shelter right away if you hear thunder.

For those of you heading to the beach, water temperatures, not surprisingly, are still chilly to downright cold along the coasts of the mid-Atlantic and Northeast. Farther south along the East Coast, and also across the Gulf Coast, the water will be much more bearable with temperatures in the 70s and 80s.

Plains and Midwest

Thunderstorms, some severe, will continue developing through Saturday ahead of a storm system across the High Plains from Colorado to the Dakotas. AccuWeather.com Expert Senior Meteorologist Dave Houk has more details on the severe weather threat in his outlook into the weekend.

In the meantime, most areas from the Midwest to the Texas coast will stay dry and warm through Saturday.

As the storm system heads farther east Sunday into Monday, however, stormy weather will start affecting more of the central Plains and Midwest. Showers and thunderstorms could affect bigger Midwestern cities such as Minneapolis, St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit, and Indianapolis during this time.

In the wake of the storms, much cooler air will spread southward and eastward across the Plains, then Upper Midwest, over the holiday weekend with high temperatures dropping by 20 to 30 degrees in some cases!

Rockies

A storm will continue slowly moving across the northern Rockies through Friday before emerging out over the Plains this weekend. While strong thunderstorms develop ahead of this system, chilly, unsettled conditions will persist behind it through Saturday.

Showers will continue affecting much of Montana and northern Wyoming through the start of the weekend, while isolated thunderstorms pop up farther south through northern Utah and parts of Colorado and New Mexico.

These thunderstorms are prone to developing rapidly during the afternoon and early evening hours and can sometimes produce cloud-to-ground lightning strikes. Hikers should be aware of this risk and plan accordingly.

As the storm moves farther east across the Plains Sunday into Monday, much of the Rockies will dry out and start to warm up. Memorial Day should actually turn out pretty nice in most places.

West Coast and Desert Southwest

Rain and mountain snow showers that have been affecting the Pacific Northwest, northern California, and the Intermountain West will clear out in time for the holiday weekend.

Dry weather is expected from Washington to California and the Desert Southwest Saturday and Sunday. On Memorial Day, a few showers could return to the Pacific Northwest.

Temperatures have been well below normal across much of the West over the past week. A warm-up is finally in store for the region this weekend with temperatures returning to near normal by Sunday or Monday.

The downside to the weather in the Southwest this weekend will be high winds and a resultant high fire danger in some areas. The highest risk for strong winds and wildfires will be in Utah, northern Arizona, and western Colorado through Saturday.

Be sure to practice good fire safety and heed any local burning bans.

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