A giant winter storm is threatening to clog holiday travel this weekend with a wide variety of hazardous weather across the country, ranging from flooding rains and possible tornadoes in the South to heavy snow to the north and ice in between.
On Friday, rain and snow were scattered from the southern Midwest and Illinois into northern New England. Although few flights had been canceled by midday, the weather was taking a toll on air travel: FlightStats.com reported more than 1,300 US delays, with the most at Chicago's O'Hare, Denver International, and the three big New York-area airports.
Over the weekend, the sprawling storm is expected to cause the bulk of travel interruptions, according to accuweather.com This storm is likely to affect major airport hubs from Dallas to St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta, New York City, and Boston, the weather website reported.
It will scatter snow over the Texas Panhandle and Western Oklahoma before heading northeast over central Kansas, continuing in a diagonal path over the Midwest and into Canada. Meteorologists are predicting up to 1 foot of snow in parts of the Midwest this weekend.
Downpours, gusty winds, and poor visibility are likely to delay flights along the East Coast, accuweather.com said.
The National Weather Service reported the possibility of tornadoes along the central Gulf Coast – in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi – on Saturday night as unseasonably warm air from the Gulf collides with cold air traveling south from the northern United States.
"I think there's a high likelihood there will be severe storms with hail and damaging wind" in parts of the South, said Tom Kines, an AccuWeather meteorologist. "Whether or not there's tornadoes, that's tough to say, but I will say the conditions are right."
While tornadoes are far more common in the spring and summer, they have struck in winter before. A tornado outbreak on Christmas Day 2012 reached from northeastern Texas through central Alabama — one twister hit Mobile, Ala. A tornado on Dec. 16, 2000, killed 11 people in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
AAA projects 94.5 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during this holiday season.
The bad weather is expected to give way to sunny skies and moderate temperatures over most of the United States by Christmas Eve on Tuesday, with some patches of snow and rain but mostly mild conditions, said meteorologist Chris Dolce of The Weather Channel in an interview with Reuters.
"The map really clears out," he told the news agency.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.