US holiday travelers brace for foul, wet weather

Associated Press
Passengers walk through Terminal 3 at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013. The National Weather Service issued a hazardous weather outlook for north central Illinois, northeast Illinois and northwest Indiana on Saturday morning. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
.

View gallery

CHICAGO (AP) — Freezing rain. Snow. Thunderstorms. Even tornadoes. Much of the nation braced for foul weather on one of the busiest travel weekends of the year, as a wet winter storm created travel worries from Chicago and Detroit to Boston and New York.

Forecasters were predicting everything from freezing rain and snow in the north to torrential rain in the Ohio Valley and Appalachia and possibly even tornadoes in the South.

The worst of the storm was expected to hit Midwest population centers on Saturday evening, giving some travelers a window at the start of the holiday rush to get through airports and along highways with little disruption. But by late morning, the number of flight cancellations and delays were both creeping up into the low hundreds, most of them at major hub airports, according to aviation tracking website FlightAware.com.

It's bad timing for the estimated 94.5 million Americans planning to travel by road or air during this holiday season, which runs from Saturday through New Year's Day, and those hitting the roads for some last-minute shopping.

"This is a particularly strong storm with very warm, near record-breaking temperatures in the East and very cold air in the Midwest, and that contrast is the sort of conditions that are favorable for not only winter weather but also tornadoes," said National Weather Service meteorologist Ed Danaher in College Park, Md.

The weekend storm was forecast to arch more than 2,000 miles from Texas to northern New England in several bands of weather that, depending on local the temperature, could produce up to 6-12 inches of snow in the northern edge, an icy mix in the middle and soaking rains and thunderstorms in the South.

It was already bringing significant ice accumulations to Oklahoma, southern Missouri and northern Arkansas, splitting trees and snapping power lines. That was expected to change over to snow by Saturday night.

In the Upper Midwest, forecasters expect 6-8 inches of snow north and west of Chicago and into Wisconsin.

Dennis Richmond, 72, was worried about a possible delay to his son's Saturday flight from Washington, D.C., to Madison, Wis., which could get up to 8 inches of snow. He said he didn't tell his son to change his itinerary, though, because there were few alternatives, and that he still planned to drive the roughly 140 miles from La Crosse to pick him up.

"The thing is, trying to book another flight at this time of year is next to impossible," he said. "I just want to alert him to the fact he might be delayed."

Icy weather snarled traffic in Oklahoma on Friday. Police in Oklahoma City blamed at least one traffic death on the weather. Forecasters said up to a half-inch of ice could accumulate across the middle of the state, from the Texas border in the southwest to the Missouri border in the northeast.

In Wisconsin and Michigan, slippery roads from freezing rain forced some schools to cancel classes. A woman sleeping in a hotel in Holland in western Michigan was injured when a motorist lost control of his car on an icy street early Friday and slammed into the wall outside her room, MLive.com reported.

In New England, communities were planning for a bit of everything — snow, sleet and rain — but were most concerned about the threat of freezing rain.

The National Weather Service predicted that parts of Maine could get more than a half-inch coating of ice, which would make roads treacherous and cause widespread power outages.

"The best advice for everyone is just to really pay attention. With every few hours, we're going to get better information," Maine Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman Lynnette Miller said Friday.

The weather service issued a flash flood watch from Arkansas northeastward through parts of Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, with up to 4 inches of rain projected. With falling temperatures, some of that could be freezing rain by Saturday night in the St. Louis area, weather service meteorologist Jon Carney said.

In Indiana, the National Weather Service posted flood warnings along southern and central Indiana streams and predicted the highest flood crests along the East Fork of the White River since April 2011.

While the Midwest and Plains were preparing for ice and snow, residents down South were concerned about tornadoes, which forecasters said were possible this weekend even though they are uncommon this time of year. The area most threatened stretched from central and northeastern Texas through Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas and southeast Missouri, where 80 mph wind gusts and flash flooding were possible.

Tom Kines, an AccuWeather meteorologist, said a northern cold front clashing with warm, humid air from the South is causing the unsettled weather.

"I think there's a high likelihood there will be severe storms with hail and damaging wind" in parts of the South, Kines said. "Whether or not there's tornadoes, that's tough to say, but I will say the conditions are right."

Weekend temperatures could surpass 70 degrees in Nashville this weekend and approach that in New York City as well, Kines said. But by Sunday night, the storm will be hammering the Northeast, where residents could be treated to a rare winter thunderstorm.

If there is a silver lining, it's that Christmas happens mid-week this year, AAA spokeswoman Heather Hunter said.

"When a holiday falls on a Wednesday it gives travelers more flexibility of either leaving the weekend before, or traveling right before the holiday and extending the trip through the following weekend," Hunter said.

___

Associated Press writers Shelley Adler in Washington, D.C.; Kelly P. Kissel in Little Rock, Ark.; David Sharp in Portland, Maine; and Dinesh Ramde in Milwaukee contributed to this report.

View Comments

Recommended for You

  • Washington state county eyes building ban after deadly mudslide: reports

    Snohomish County was on Wednesday to consider a six-month ban on new construction in landslide-prone areas countywide after a slide last month that killed 41 people, local media reported. A rain-soaked hillside collapsed above the Stillaguamish River on March 22 unleashing a torrent of mud that…

    Reuters22 mins ago
  • EU climate chief urges China to show international commitment

    By Stian Reklev BEIJING (Reuters) - China could set a new pace for slow-moving international climate talks by bringing its domestic commitment to fight global warming on to the world stage, the EU's top climate change official said on Wednesday. EU Climate Change Commissioner Connie Hedegaard is…

    Reuters47 mins ago
  • How Creative Are You? Here's One Way to Find Out

    The Art Institutes schools are offering courses in a variety of programs designed to help budding artists begin their creative journeys. Learn more.

    AdChoices The Art InstitutesSponsored
  • Nepal moves to ease tension among Sherpas after Everest disaster

    By Gopal Sharma and John Chalmers KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Nepal's government decided on Wednesday to send a delegation of officials to the base camp of Mount Everest to cool anger among Sherpas over its response to last week's deadly ice avalanche in which at least 13 guides were killed. Two…

    Reuters
  • Billions needed to upgrade Egypt's power grid as summer crunch looms

    By Maggie Fick CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt needs to find at least $5 billion to invest in its dilapidated power grid, a government official told Reuters, highlighting a major challenge for the next president as the country faces the risk of worsening blackouts this summer. Energy is a politically…

    Reuters
  • Australia vows to keep searching to solve missing Malaysian plane mystery

    By Byron Kaye PERTH, Australia (Reuters) - Australia vowed on Wednesday to keep searching for a missing Malaysian plane despite no sign of wreckage after almost seven weeks, and as bad weather again grounded aircraft and an undersea drone neared the end of its first full mission. Australian Prime…

    Reuters
  • Obama visits mudslide-hit community in Washington state

    President Barack Obama on Tuesday visited the Washington state community slammed by a deadly mudslide last month, offering condolences to the families of victims, encouragement to rescue workers, and promises of government support. After viewing the mudslide from the air, Obama met for over an…

    Reuters
  • Florida Senator holds Miami Beach hearing on rising sea level

    By David Adams and Zachary Fagenson MIAMI BEACH (Reuters) - Climate change is already impacting south Florida coastal communities, which could see a three-foot rise in sea level by the end of the century, a panel of officials and scientists testified at a Senate hearing on Miami Beach on Tuesday. …

    Reuters
  • Parched California moves to boost water saving toilets, faucets

    By Rory Carroll SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - With California facing its worst drought in a century, state officials have fast-tracked first-in-the-nation water efficiency standards for new toilets, urinals and faucets, an action expected to save about 8.2 billion gallons of water the first year while…

    Reuters
  • Learn the Power of Content Creation

    Full Sail University can help you develop the needed communication skills for today's evolving media landscape.

    AdChoices Full Sail UniversitySponsored
  • Submarine drone search for Malaysian plane to continue

    By Byron Kaye PERTH, Australia (Reuters) - A U.S. submarine drone will keep scouring the Indian Ocean floor for traces of a missing Malaysian jetliner after it finishes its current targeted search, Australian authorities told Reuters as a tropical cyclone suspended the air search. Authorities are…

    Reuters
  • Obama to visit site of Washington State landslide

    The White House said President Barack Obama is due to meet with the families of victims of a deadly mudslide in Washington State on Tuesday afternoon before leaving for a four-country tour of Asia. The Snohomish County Medical Examiner's Office said on Monday that 41 victims have been recovered…

    Reuters
  • Damage claims filed in Washington state over mudslide disaster

    By Jonathan Kaminsky OLYMPIA, Washington (Reuters) - The widow of a man killed in the Washington state mudslide has filed damage claims asserting that official inaction contributed to the disaster that took more than 40 lives. Thomas Durnell, 65, was at home on March 22 when the mudslide hit and…

    Reuters
  • Mazda recalls 109,000 SUVs in the United States for rust issue

    Mazda Motor Corp is recalling 109,000 Tribute compact sport utility vehicles in the United States to address potential rusting frame parts in cold-weather states where road salt is heavily used in the winter. The recall affects Tribute SUVs from model years 2001 to 2004 as corrosion on a part of…

    Reuters
  • Meteor lights up night sky in northern Russia

    MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russians with smartphones and dashboard cameras captured footage of a meteor that flashed across the night sky near the Arctic Circle over the weekend. There were no reports of damage but the ball of fire raised eyebrows after a meteorite crashed to Earth near the Russian city of…

    Reuters
  • As Nepali sherpa families cremate Everest victims, anger grows

    By Gopal Sharma KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Nepali families cremated eight Mount Everest sherpas on Monday as anger grew over how much compensation should be paid to victims of the single deadliest avalanche on the world's highest mountain. The eight bodies, out of a total of 13 recovered at the…

    Reuters
  • Find Your High School Yearbook

    View class yearbooks online free. Reminisce & buy a reprint today.

    AdChoices Classmates.comSponsored
  • Cyclone threatens to disrupt search for missing Malaysian plane

    The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which vanished on March 8 with 239 people on board, has narrowed to a 10 sq km (6.2 sq mile) patch of sea floor about 2,000 km (1,200 miles) west of the Australian city of Perth. Search authorities and the Australian and Malaysian governments have…

    Reuters
  • Slow-moving landslide in Wyoming resort town destroys home

    A slow-moving landslide claimed a house in Jackson, Wyoming as crews scrambled to prevent a water main from rupturing and flooding the affluent resort town with two million gallons of water, a city manager said Saturday. The landslide, which has prompted the evacuations of homes, apartment…

    Reuters
  • South Korea recovers first bodies from inside sunken ferry

    South Korean divers retrieved three bodies from inside a sunken ferry overnight, officials said on Sunday, the first time they have been able to gain entry to the passenger section of the ship. "At 11:48 p.m. (10.48 ET) the joint rescue team broke a glass window and succeeded in getting inside the…

    Reuters
  • 2014 Boston Marathon weather forecast: Quiet weekend weather

    Lots of events this weekend leading up to the 2014 Boston Marathon on Monday. Will weather be an issue for the runners?

    SB Nation
  • Why the mancave could be a big insurance risk

    Refinishing your basement can represent a substantial financial problem. (Hint: It has to do with what your homeowners insurance doesn't cover.)

    CNBC
  • Death toll climbs to at least 13 in worst tragedy on Everest

    By Gopal Sharma KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Rescuers recovered the body of one mountain guide on Saturday after an ice avalanche swept the lower slopes of Mount Everest, bringing the death toll to at least 13 in the deadliest accident on the world's highest mountain. The avalanche struck a perilous…

    Reuters
  • Northeastern Online MBA

    A World-Class University Fully Accredited by the AACSB. Earn an MBA from Northeastern University Online. No GMAT req. Get information now.

    AdChoices Northeastern UniversitySponsored