As students embark on winter break, last-minute shoppers head to the stores and holiday travel ramps up across the country later this week, a major storm could lead to widespread travel headaches in the eastern U.S.
The potential exists for a storm system to track from the Gulf Coast through the Northeast at the end of the week, according to AccuWeather Meteorologist Maura Kelly.
This storm is expected to soak the southeastern U.S. Thursday into Friday before heading northward, bringing rounds of heavy rain to the Northeast and some wintry weather to the Midwest late this week and into the weekend.
“Flooding will once again be a concern across the Southeast, especially in areas already experiencing minor to moderate river flooding from the last round of rain,” Kelly said.
“Earlier this week, Wilmington, North Carolina reached 100 inches of rainfall so far this year and will see even more rain with this system as the heaviest once again looks to fall across coastal areas.”
Northeast cities where previous annual rainfall records have long been exceeded are on track to receive even more wet weather as well.
Strong onshore winds will pick up over coastal areas from the Chesapeake Bay up the New England coast as the storm treks northward. As a result, both coastal flooding and inundating rainfall will lead to flood concerns as the weekend approaches.
Anyone living or traveling through areas from the Carolinas through the mid-Atlantic, New York and New England should prepare for a multi-day stretch of gusty winds and heavy rain, which can lead to property damage, airline delays and slowed and dangerous travel on the roads. Anyone expecting deliveries may receive packages late as travel delays mount.
Early outlook: How will weather leading up to Christmas affect travel, white Christmas chances?
In case you missed it: Deadly snowstorm pummels South; Strongest Tennessee earthquake in 45 years shakes Atlanta
AccuWeather Winter Weather Center
Standing water on roadways can cause hydroplaning at highway speeds, and visibility will be low in times of heavy rain. Those traveling on highways and interstates should pad their travel plans with extra time and drive with caution.
“The storm system will once again be warm enough that the bulk of the precipitation across the East will fall as rain, but cold air being pulled into the storm on the backside will allow wet snow to mix with rain showers,” Kelly said.
While a major snowstorm is not expected, enough snow can fall to make for slick roads and cause delays in a portion of the Midwest. Accompanying gusty winds can lead to sudden drops in visibility, increasing the chances for dangerous road conditions and pile-ups on area roads.
“Anyone looking to get a jump on holiday travel in the East will need to keep an eye on the forecast,” Kelly warned.
“Snow showers can lead to slippery conditions in the Great Lakes region to end the week, then into parts of the Northeast through the weekend as temperatures drop.”
While some of this snow could stick in high-elevation areas, any dusting that amounts is unlikely to stay on the ground through Christmas morning.
Download the free AccuWeather app to keep an eye on the forecast for your area, your travel destination and everywhere in between.