Snow to grind Christmas travel to a halt in western US; Rain to cause delays in eastern US
By By Alex Sosnowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist.
December 25, 2015, 4:32:51 AM EST
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As millions take to the roads and skies leading up to Christmas, rainstorms will drench the East as snowstorms plunge across the West.
According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), one in three Americans will take a trip during the holiday season with the number of travelers expected to top 100 million for the first time on record.
A large percentage of holiday travelers will encounter weather-related delays this week.
Storms will cause extensive warmth, rain and fog to expand in the Eastern states and at the same time will allow cold air, coastal rain and mountain snow to return to the West.
Rain, fog and thunderstorms to accompany eastern warmth
From the Mississippi Valley to the Atlantic coast, the vast majority of holiday travelers will not have to contend with snow or ice. However, delays and difficulties associated with rain and fog are likely, along with the potential for blinding downpours in some locations.
According to AccuWeather Chief Meteorologist Elliot Abrams, "Fog will be the biggest concern for travelers in the East through Wednesday."
Motorists should turn on headlights when driving during rainy and/or foggy conditions, even in the daytime, to increase visibility to other drivers.
Most people traveling in the East through this weekend can leave the heavy winter outwear at home. In most cases, the coldest air of the month has already occurred. Be sure to pack some waterproof gear.
For those driving, windshield wipers will need to be in good working order. Locally heavy rain is in the offing with the potential for localized flooding. Lower speed will be needed to reduce the chance of hydroplaning.
Downpours and the risk of flooding will greatest in the South.
Two storm systems will sweep northeastward from the South Central states bringing plenty of moisture amid the warmth.
Long stretches of many highway corridors will be affected, including interstates 10, 20, 40, 55, 80, 81, 90 and 95.
The rain will impact Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta, Cincinnati, New Orleans, Nashville, Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New York City, Boston and Charlotte, North Carolina.
A mosaic of rain and drizzle over much of the eastern half of the nation on Wednesday.
During Christmas Eve, the rain will exit the Midwest, but it will continue in the Appalachians for a time with the potential for showers along the Atlantic Seaboard much of the day.
In addition to rain and fog, thunderstorms could become locally severe in parts of the South through Wednesday night. Thunderstorms capable of producing damaging winds and isolated tornadoes will extend from northeastern Texas to as far north as Indiana and as far east as Alabama.
People on the road should keep an eye out and be prepared to react safely due to rapidly changing weather conditions.
Pre-Christmas snow to blanket part of North Central states
Snowfall east of the Rockies will be almost non-existent in the days leading up to Christmas.
However, a batch of snow will drift eastward across North Dakota and into northern Minnesota on into Wednesday.
Part of I-94 in eastern North Dakota to western Minnesota could become slippery.
Rain, snow to move southward and inland over West
People traveling by vehicle in the mountains of the West will need to have tire chains on hand. Windshield wipers will get a workout along much of the Pacific coast.
Daily storms will roll in from the Pacific Ocean through Christmas Eve and will largely affect the Interstate-5 corridor of the Northwest, as well as the adjoining major highways including interstates 80, 84 and 90, as well as routes 20 and 299.
The last remnants of a storm that hit the Northwest on Monday will unwind over the interior West into Wednesday.
Areas of heavy snow will extend from part of the Cascades and Sierra Nevada to the central and Northern Rockies.
Gusty winds will lead to travel difficulties along parts of the I-15, I-17, I-10 and I-40 in the Southwest. The caboose of this recent storm train will have eyes farther south late in the week.
Colder air will also plunge southward with the late-week storm and will bring low snow levels throughout the West Coast states.
Not only may travel be difficult over Donner Pass, but roads over Tejon and Cajon passes could become covered with snow.
Rain will likely return to San Francisco and Sacramento. Snow will fall on Salt Lake City on Christmas Eve into Christmas Day.
As the storm turns eastward and crosses the southern Rockies, it will reorganize. During Saturday into Sunday, heavy snow and blizzard conditions may develop in parts of New Mexico and southern Colorado.
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