Where Harsh Winter Weather Could Disrupt Your Holiday Travel Plans

Cars in a traffic jam in winter stock photo
Sergey Pavlov / iStock.com

A significant weather storm is expected to hit parts of the Midwest, Central Appalachians, eastern Great Lakes, Mid-Atlantic and Northeast United States this week, bringing rain, snow, high winds, potential flash freezes and certain travel disruptions into the forthcoming holiday weekend.

The storm, a potential “bomb cyclone” dubbed Winter Storm Elliott by The Weather Channel, has the potential of causing extensive infrastructure impacts including scattered tree damage and utility outages. “Dangerous, to at times impossible, land and air travel leading up to the holiday weekend” is anticipated, per the Weather Prediction Center (WPC).

According to the Weather Prediction Center (WPC), “An Arctic cold front will sweep across much of the country Tuesday night [Dec. 20] into the Holiday Weekend. The combination of developing low pressure along this front and high pressure over the northern High Plains will produce widespread strong winds, bands of heavy snow, and blizzard conditions for much of the Plains, Midwest, and into or through the Great Lakes.”

Additionally, temperatures will likely be the coldest of the season to date. According to CNN, 80% of the U.S. (excluding Alaska and Hawaii) are forecasting below-freezing temperatures. “This is the coldest air so far this season with extremely dangerous wind chills expected for much of the interior portions of the country,” noted the WPC site.

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As the New York Times reported, even southern areas of the country unaccustomed to frosty weather, like Florida, Texas and cities along the Gulf Coast may see record-setting temperatures. Although they won’t be having a white Christmas, “for some folks, it could be one of the coldest Christmases in a while,” said WPC senior meteorologist Zackary Taylor.

Blizzard conditions are likely to hit the Midwest and parts of the Great Lakes area primarily. Advisories and alerts have been issued by the National Weather Service and there are winter storm watches already in place for cities such as Chicago, Des Moines, Milwaukee, Minneapolis-St. Paul and Omaha, per The Weather Channel.

This mix of treacherous storm patterns and frigid temperatures is certain to stand in the way of many Americans hoping for worry-free travel over the upcoming winter holiday weekend, by air and on the ground.

According to CNN, United Airlines began issuing three separate travel vouchers on the evening pf Dec. 19 for travelers using affected airports in the East Coast (which has about 50 airports that will come under this waiver), Texas (more than a dozen airports) and the Midwest (almost 30 airports).

Quoted by CBS’s Minnesota affiliate WCCO, AAA’s Meredith Mitts said altering travel plans or cancelling them altogether might be the wiser option than braving the roads. “If you can change your travel plans to accommodate, you should do so,” stated Mitts. “Staying home is the better option than being stranded on the side of the road for multiple hours.”

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