Ice, snow, and heavy rain will impact weekend travel plans
Saturday, December 23, 2017, 21:46 - We're in the home stretch before Christmas Day, and that means millions of travelers are hitting the roads and taking to the air to visit friends and family this weekend.
The weather has a few presents of its own in store for many across the country - including some that will leave you wishing you had the receipt. Forecasters are keeping a close eye on weather-related travel delays that we anticipate during this final stretch leading up to the big day, including wintry weather in the Northeast, heavy rain in the South, and snow and frosty temperatures in the West.
• Bitterly cold air arrives by the end of the weekend across much of the country east of the Rockies, and in the Pacific Northwest, leading to one of the coldest Christmas Days in recent memory for many
• Snow - potentially heavy - returns to the Northeast for Christmas Day, meaning a last-minute White Christmas for some, and travel headaches for others
• Low humidity and offshore winds mean fire weather conditions remain critical for parts of Southern California through at least Christmas Day
Stay weather wise | Check our Weather Alerts before heading out on the roads
Below is a detailed day-by-day breakdown of the adverse weather conditions across the country that we are watching.
Christmas Eve: Here comes the cold
The aforementioned Arctic front and its bitterly cold air working their way south on Sunday will lead to one of the coldest Christmases in a long time for the central U.S. and potentially the coldest final week of the year since 2000. High temperatures will struggle to get into the 30s across the central Plains; even Oklahoma and northern Texas will see highs only in the upper 30s or low 40s on Sunday.
Accompanying the cold air south, a disturbance moving out of the central Rockies will bring snow to parts of the central Plains, Midwest and Lower Great Lakes, beginning in Kansas and Nebraska overnight on Saturday, moving through the central Mississippi Valley during the morning hours, and heading into Ohio by late afternoon. Accumulations with this system are expected to be fairly light, with a band of 2 to 3 inches of fresh snow expected from eastern Colorado, through northern Missouri, and into northern Ohio.
Cold air will also be seeping into the Pacific Northwest, and with it a band of heavy mountain snow stretching from south of Seattle to southeastern Oregon. Morning freezing rain, and even some snow, is possible for Portland Saturday night and Sunday morning.
BE PREPARED: Winter Driving Tips
Christmas Day: Last minute White Christmas in the Northeast, Midwest
Sunday's Midwest system will be moving into the Northeast as Santa makes his rounds, and brings the potential for a last-minute White Christmas morning from central New Jersey and Pennsylvania north. Boston, Philadelphia, and New York City all stand to see some light accumulations of snow for Christmas morning, with an inch or so in the forecast. Significantly higher accumulations are expected further inland across New England and Upstate New York - particularly at higher elevations, with some model guidance suggesting up to a foot of snow on Christmas Day for parts of the Green Mountains. Depending on how far north the low pressure system tracks, Boston may be in for more than a dusting when all is said and done, with some models hinting at 4 inches of snow or more - this system will definitely be one to watch for those with New England travel plans.
Away from the Northeast and the Great Lakes, most of the country looks dry on Christmas Day, with the exception of the northern Rockies and parts of the Front Range, where snow continues through the day. The big story for most of the nation's midsection will be the cold. Christmas morning will see some bitter wind chills over the northern Plains and Upper Midwest, as Arctic high pressure stretches south. Morning temperatures in the 30s will stretch all the way to the Gulf Coast over parts of the Deep South; hopefully Santa is bringing some mittens and parkas in his sleigh!
Watch below: How to make your own snow at-home (does it pass the snowball test?)
Beyond Christmas into New Year
Heading into the end of the month and into the new year, the core of the cold will gradually shift northward but remain entrenched through the north central and northwest regions, as well as through the Midwest and New England. This will shove the storm track northward -- meaning lows will now push up and over the ridge through Alaska redeveloping as Alberta Clippers.
This pattern looks to maintain the central portions of the country under a much drier pattern with periodic bouts of snow across the Northern High plains and the Midwest.
With files from Brad Rousseau and Ross Giarratana. Thumbnail image courtesy: Creative Commons