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From Snow to Tornadoes: Christmas Travel in Jeopardy for Millions

Extreme weather in Central and Eastern states will occur as travelers take to roads and airways

Updated Friday, Dec. 20, 2013, 4:20 p.m. ET
Wintry Weather
(AP Photo/Mel Evans)

Similar to the days prior to Thanksgiving, the worst weather will focus on the days prior to Christmas as millions of travelers take to the roads and skies in the United States and southern Canada.

According to AAA, 94.5 million people will travel 50 miles or more over the holiday season, spanning Dec. 21 to Jan. 1.

Most of the travel troubles will be caused by a single storm system forecast to affect much of the Central and Eastern states on Saturday and Sunday.

The storm this weekend will bring a wide variety of weather ranging from temperature extremes to heavy snow, ice, flooding rain, fog, severe thunderstorms and the potential for tornadoes. The storm will affect major airport hubs from Dallas to St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta, New York City and Boston.

According to AccuWeather.com Severe Weather Expert Henry Margusity, "This is a spring storm stuck in a winter pattern that threatens to combine slippery travel and flight delays with the dangers of flooding and violent thunderstorms."

Weekend Snowstorm to Reach Thousands of Miles

The main storm this weekend will begin to put down snow across the northern Texas Panhandle and western Oklahoma on Saturday.

As the storm rolls out, heavy snow will develop later Saturday over central Kansas and will continue along a northeasterly path Saturday night and Sunday through northwestern Missouri, central and southeastern Iowa and Wisconsin, much of northern Michigan and across central Ontario, southern Quebec and northern New Brunswick.

Portions of the central Plains, Upper Midwest and southeastern Canada could be on the receiving end of a foot (30 cm) of snow.

Ice and a wintry mix is also another concern for travelers with the storm from part of central Oklahoma to southern Michigan, southern Ontario, along the St. Lawrence River in Ontario, northern upstate New York, northern New England central and southern New Brunswick.

Enough ice can accumulate in northern New England and neighboring Canada to bring down scores of trees and cause widespread power outages Saturday night and Sunday.

The snow and ice could bring vehicles to a crawl or possibly shut down portions of I-29, I-35, I-70, I-80 and I-90 in the U.S., and highways 2, 20, 40 and 401 in Canada.

Rain, Flooding and Fog

On the southeastern flank of the storm from central and coastal Texas to central New England, drenching rain will fall.

Some of the rain will be heavy enough to cause flooding.

For most of the I-95 corridor through Sunday afternoon from the storm the only major weather issue will be patchy fog.

Episodes of dense fog could be a player in slowing ground travel and causing flight delays, especially from around the Great Lakes to the Northeast. Delays from fog are most likely from Chicago to Detroit, Indianapolis, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and Buffalo, N.Y. Friday into Friday night and from Philadelphia to New York City and Boston on Saturday.

Dangerous Thunderstorms, Tornado Risk

Farther south, there is the risk of damaging thunderstorms and tornadoes from parts of central Texas to the southern tip of Indiana Saturday and Saturday night, with the risk of locally severe thunderstorms farther east on Sunday.

Storm, Rain Remnants to Reach East Coast

A cold front associated with the storm system will push showers and thunderstorms to the Atlantic Seaboard late in the weekend. Downpours, poor visibility and locally gusty winds could cause travel delays during this time from Boston to New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Charlotte and Atlanta Sunday evening. Until then, much of the area will bask in record-challenging warmth.

Gusty winds could be an issue at some airports in the Northeast on Sunday.

Tune in to AccuWeather LIVE Weekday Mornings
Severe/Winter Weather Center: Watches and Warnings
Interactive Lower Mississippi Valley Radar

By Monday, most of the direct effects from the storm will diminish, and travel conditions will improve over the Central and Eastern states.

Rain will be restricted to I-95 in the southern Atlantic Seaboard, and colder air will be sweeping across the Midwest and into the East. Bands of lake-effect snow can cause localized travel problems downwind of the Great Lakes.

Travel Trouble in the West

Away from the main storm this weekend, snow will slide southeastward from the Casdades to part of the Great Basin and central Rockies into Saturday. The storm will affect a large area, including the cities of Salt Lake City and Boise, Idaho. On Friday the storm made for slippery travel around Seattle.

Enough snow will fall from both systems to slow travel along extensive stretches of I-15, I-25, I-84 and I-90.

Another dose of snow will sweep inland over part of the Northwest to the northern Rockies on Monday.

Better Travel Conditions by Christmas Eve

In much of the Southwest, the weather will be good for travel, spanning Saturday right through Christmas Day.

Some snow could fall on parts of Colorado on Christmas Day, and rain showers may hug the Atlantic Coast from Florida to North Carolina.

Over much of the nation, travel weather for Tuesday and Christmas Day will be good.

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thank you.j

December 21 2013 at 8:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I thought we had a problem with global warming.... hmmm.

December 21 2013 at 1:36 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

people get over it, it is winter ...love the cold it does good for the environment ..

December 20 2013 at 11:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
hello marcia

i agree--its winter---deal with it...i love it

December 20 2013 at 10:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

"Oh my its getting icy" well no **** its 28 degrees.

December 20 2013 at 7:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Here's news: it's winter. There's bad weather in winter.

December 20 2013 at 6:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Why is everything always Extreme ?? Its like we never had winter before...

December 20 2013 at 3:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

going to be a white christmas here you mole heads

December 20 2013 at 2:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
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