The weather outside could be frightful along the East Coast, Pacific Northwest and other regions in the coming days, leading to less-than-festive conditions for travelers hitting the roads and skies for the holidays.
Heavy rain and wind are expected to cause flight delays and clog roadways along the I-95 corridor later this week, and meteorologists warn drivers that they might have an easier trip if they wait until the weekend for their holiday travel.
On the West Coast, rain over the next few days might also cause some delays from Washington to as far south as Southern California.
Here’s what you need to know about how the weather will affect holiday travel if you’re flying or driving over the next few days.
Thursday and Friday
Friday will likely be a tough day for holiday travel along the East Coast, according to Greg Carbin, the chief of forecast operations for the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center.
Rain is expected to start late Thursday and stretch from Florida to the mid-Atlantic, and will likely last until late on Friday. Flash flooding will be possible from D.C. to Boston on Thursday and Friday, Carbin says.
The best travelers can do on these days is to “keep advised of the latest forecasts and road conditions, and be prepared for delays,” Carbin says.
Airports along the I-95 corridor may also experience flight delays, thanks to the rain and strong wind that is expected on Thursday and Friday.
The worst weather on Friday is expected to hit the southeast. There is a chance for major flight delays on Friday in the eastern portions of Georgia and the Carolinas, as well as in Florida.
Holiday travel is expected to be especially difficult in Florida on Thursday and Friday. Thunderstorms are expected for Thursday evening, and there is a possibility of a tornado forming, according to Carbin. There will also likely be periods of poor visibility on the roadways. Accuweather meteorologist Max Vido warns that the weather could be “pretty nasty down there,” and that there will be at least minor delays.
The Pacific Northwest is also expected to experience its share of less-than-stellar weather, although its impact on holiday travel is not likely to be as serious as on the East Coast.
Vido says it’s expected to rain through Christmas in the western Pacific region near Seattle and Portland, although the heaviest rain will likely begin on Thursday morning.
“There’s going to be more wet weather than dry weather going through Christmas,” he says.
A good window for holiday travel will likely be when the rain clears up later on Friday afternoon through midday Saturday.
The rain will likely cause minor air travel delays until Christmas, but Vido says that he does not expect the weather to seriously impact holiday travel in these areas.
“It’s Seattle and Portland in the wintertime, it’s not like they’re not used to it,” he says.
There’s also likely to be snow starting late Thursday and throughout the day on Friday in the Rocky Mountains and the Cascades. A few inches are expected to accumulate in the region, and as much as a foot is possible at high elevations, Vido says.
Saturday and Sunday
While people in the Pacific Northwest can expect the rain to let up on Friday night through Saturday morning, it’s expected to start again on Saturday afternoon and continue through Sunday. Minor delays for air travel and driving are expected. Snow is also expected to pick up again in the Rocky Mountains and Cascades on Saturday, and to continue in showers through the weekend.
On the East Coast, the weather is expected to be much clearer over the weekend than it was on Friday, as the storm is expected to move up into Canada.
Some snow is possible on Friday night into Saturday morning in the western part of the Northeast near Lake Erie, Pittsburgh and Buffalo, New York, although it is expected to only be a coating.
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day
Rain from the Pacific Northwest could reach into Northern California on Monday, and even get into Southern California on Tuesday. The storm may cause some minor travel delays and make roads slipperier, although major delays are not expected, Vido says.
Some smaller storms may bring light snow to the Central Plains and Midwest from Sunday night through Christmas, although Vido says that it’s difficult to say for sure just yet. Some rain is also likely in Texas and the Mississippi Valley.
The weather on the East Coast is expected to be fairly cold, although rain and snow are not expected.
How to stay safe while traveling this holiday season
The best thing drivers can do before traveling in hazardous conditions is to prepare, says AAA spokeswoman Fran Mayko. Drivers should pay close attention to weather forecasts and ensure that roads are still open.
Two of the most important things drivers should check before hitting the roads are the treads on their tires and that their batteries are in good working order. Batteries that are three years old or more may be in danger of dying.
Mayko says that AAA prioritizes helping drivers who are stuck on the side of the road, and cautions that on busy days people who are stuck in their driveways may need to wait longer for assistance.
Drivers should also make sure that they’re always visible to other vehicles, wear their seat belts and drive about 30% slower in slippery conditions, Mayko advises.
“Use your judgement. Common sense,” she says. “You’re definitely not going to drive 60 or 70.”