These are the parts of the US where weather could disrupt travel in the days after Christmas

Alex Sosnowski

Heading home or returning gifts after Christmas? With a focus on Thursday, this story pinpoints where the weather may influence your travels, whether it's a short drive or across the miles.

"More Americans than ever on record will travel this holiday season," according to the American Automobile Association (AAA).

AAA is expecting 115.6 million to hit the roads, rails and skies for the end of the year holidays through New Year's Day. This means that with highways, airports and train stations can expect high volumes of people, and the weather potentially could really interfere with travel plans.

Amtrak Police officer stands guard with travelers waiting in line at Union Station in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Most of the trouble on the roads and airports will be during the days prior to Christmas, with big rainstorms in the Southeast and along the Pacific coast.

Country-wide, the busiest day for holiday travel is expected to be on Thursday, after Christmas, AAA stated.

There is some good news for many travelers in the Southeast right after Christmas, while most places east of the Rockies are likely to continue the string of good luck with the weather.

"The weather will generally cooperate for vast stretches of the United States immediately after Christmas, but there will be some travel trouble spots that are not uncommon for the time of the year," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist John Gresiak said.

Long stretches of Interstate 95 in the East, I-10 in the South, I-55 in the Mississippi Valley and I-80 in the East and much of the Central states will be free of rain and snow.

Dry weather is in store for the major airport hubs of Atlanta, Chicago, St. Louis, New York City, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Boston, Washington, D.C., Dallas, Houston, Charlotte, North Carolina, and Orlando, Florida, on Thursday.

"An exception to the dry weather in the Southeast is likely to be spotty rain showers along the east coast of Florida," according to Gresiak.

Showers are also likely to extend northward from Mexico and into parts of west-central Texas on Thursday.

Meanwhile, a patch of unsettled weather is also forecast from the upper Great Lakes to parts of the northern and central Plains. While rain is likely in most of this swath, a wintry mix and snow is in store over the northern tier. It is possible that Minneapolis receives a wintry mix or snow for a time on Thursday. Rain showers could extend to Detroit and perhaps as far to the southeast as Cleveland.

Somewhat more widespread travel problems are likely in the West with areas of snow over the mountains from Wyoming and Colorado to Utah. Snow showers could reach into the Denver and Salt Lake City metro areas. Motorists should be prepared for the patches of snow along I-15, I-25, I-70 and I-80 in the region.

Disruptive weather looks to be the most significant across Southern California and part of I-5.

Rain and snow looks to begin late on Christmas Day, and linger through the busiest travel day on Thursday.

It does appear as though that storm will spread rain and mountain snow inland over the Southwest from Friday to this coming weekend.

That same storm may then evolve into a cross-country precipitation-producer that then spreads rain and thunderstorms on its southeastern flank and perhaps a swath of accumulating snow on its colder northwest side later in the weekend to the last few of days of 2019 over the Central and Eastern states.

Motorists should still use some caution in the mild weather pattern. Long nights and just a bit of moist air can lead to fog this time of the year.

A thin layer of black ice can form on roads and sidewalks under the right conditions. This was most likely the case in southeastern Virginia during Sunday morning, where a multiple-vehicle pile-up occurred in foggy conditions.

At least for most of the nation, Arctic air will be lacking, which means that waiting outside for a bus or train, fueling your vehicle or dashing to stores to exchange unwanted presents and seek bargains will be a little less painful, even in New England and the Upper Midwest.

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