It’s such a helpless feeling to get stuck in an airport or a train station when you’re traveling for the holidays. Having to spend the night in the airport when you’d rather be with family and friends can be an unavoidable hassle when the busiest travel days of the year coincide with some of the stormiest periods of the year. Thankfully, the nastiest weather this week should miss the heaviest travel days, but delays and cancellations look likely toward the end of the week.
Overall, it looks like most folks traveling by air, rail, and car across the United States shouldn’t run into too many issues caused by weather through Christmas. The biggest issues we’ll see could come later in the week as a storm system rolls across the United States. Unlike Thanksgiving, where most people travel the Wednesday before and come home the following Sunday, there isn’t really a set return day after Christmas. People sort of trickle home—some come home right after the holiday while others wait until the new year.
The big weather story this week will be a storm system traversing the country between Monday and Friday. The system will reach California and Oregon on Monday morning with heavy rain at lower elevations and heavy snow at higher elevations. The steady rain and low clouds could slow down air travel on Monday in cities like San Francisco, Sacramento, and Portland.
We’ll see that storm depart the West Coast and make its way across the Rockies on Tuesday and Wednesday. The trough responsible for the turbulent weather will spawn a potent low-pressure system in the Plains overnight Wednesday into Thursday.
The resulting low will track from the southern Plains on Thursday to the Great Lakes on Friday. The lack of cold air across most of the region will make this a rainmaker for most folks in the Plains and Midwest. The latest forecast from the Weather Prediction Center shows a general swath of 1 to 3 inches of rain falling across the Plains and the Midwest over the next week. More rain will fall in the southeast—possibly leading to some localized flooding concerns—as showers and thunderstorms have more moisture to work with as humid southerly winds flow off the Gulf of Mexico.
Snow is likely to the northwest of the track of the low, and it looks right now that the northern Plains and Upper Midwest stand the best chance to see some post-Christmas snow. Several inches of snow are possible across the northern parts of the country as the storm moves through the region.
We could run into more weather-related delays in air hubs like Atlanta next weekend as waves of precipitation move across the southeast and Mid-Atlantic states. It’s a little too early to pin down specifics, but it looks like there could be several gloomy, rainy days to contend with next weekend. Gloom doesn’t necessarily cancel flights, but it could slow things down and the resulting ripple effects could cause delays and cancellations throughout the network.