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Memorial Day outlook: Storms to threaten central, western US; Record heat to grip South

By Renee Duff, AccuWeather meteorologist
May 23, 2019, 12:36:44 PM EDT


As millions head outdoors for the unofficial start of summer, plans in the central and western United States could be jeopardized by stormy weather while heat persists in the Southeast.

The American Automobile Association (AAA) expects nearly 43 million Americans to travel by cars, trains and airplanes for the long holiday weekend, a 3.6 percent increase from last year and the second-highest travel volume since 2000 when record-keeping began.

However you are commemorating the holiday weekend, be sure to download the free AccuWeather app to see the latest forecast for your plans.

memorial day ap

In this May 24, 2018 photo, flags are seen on Boston Common in Boston, which are placed there for Memorial Day. The solemn display of tens of thousands of U.S. flags that first appeared on Boston Common a decade ago to honor service members who have died defending the nation is slowly becoming a national movement. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)


Central US to remain focal point of rain, thunderstorms

The nation's midsection will remain in the grips of a stormy weather pattern with rounds of rain and thunderstorms expected each day from Saturday through Memorial Day.

There may be the risk of severe weather once again across the central and southern Plains, according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Tom Kines.

Memorial Day May 23 am


While an outbreak on par with Monday is not anticipated, the severe storms can add insult to injury to areas still reeling from days of violent weather.

The morning and early afternoon hours may be the best times for outdoor activities before the bulk of the storms fire up late in the afternoon and evening.

The rounds of rain and storms can create new and/or worsening flooding problems across areas of the nation's midsection that have received above normal precipitation this month.

Northeast to endure occasional storms as record heat persists in South

An area of high pressure that will spur on a surge of heat in the Southeast later this week is forecast to remain firmly in place for Memorial Day.

This will result in mainly dry, sunny weather persisting for the holiday weekend, but there will also be a continuation of dangerous heat.

"It will feel like summer has already begun across much of the Southeast with record-challenging heat," Kines said.

Temperatures in the 90s to near 100 degrees Fahrenheit will be common with oppressive humidity levels pushing AccuWeather RealFeel® Temperatures even higher.

The heat will make for great weather to hit local pools, lakes or streams, but it will make it necessary for anyone spending any length of time outdoors to drink plenty of water and wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.

SE heat May 22


The bubble of high pressure will protect the South from the storm systems originating over the Central states, instead directing them into the Great Lakes and Northeast.

"There will be the opportunity for showers and thunderstorms from the western Great Lakes to the Northeast," Kines said. However, he does not anticipate any one day of the holiday weekend to be a total washout.

Still, anyone attending ceremonies and cookouts or going camping and hiking will want to be wary of the threat for storms to pop up and produce dangerous lightning. Track the storms minute-by-minute using AccuWeather's exclusive MinuteCast®.

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Memorial Day, the unofficial start to summer, will feel more like April from California to Arizona

Cool, unsettled weather to persist in the West

A persistent dip in the jet stream will keep most of the West in an unusually cool, unsettled pattern into Memorial Day weekend.

"Memorial Day is the unofficial start to summer, but it will feel more like April from California to Arizona and Utah," according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski. "

Showers and thunderstorms are likely to pop up each day of the extended weekend, mostly over interior locations but occasionally dampening coastal communities as well.

SW cool May 22


"Snow is even a possibility across the higher elevations," Kines said. This includes the Sierra Nevada in California, Utah's Wasatch Range and the northern and central Rockies.

People with plans to hike or camp in the many national parks across the West will want to make sure they are prepared for the cool and damp conditions.

"Washington and northern Oregon, however, will remain north of the grip of the cool pocket of air on Memorial Day," Pydynowski said. "Seattle may be warmer than many locations in the Southwest, such as Las Vegas."

Keep checking back for updates on AccuWeather.com and stay tuned to the AccuWeather Network on DirecTV, Frontier and Verizon Fios.

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