Winter storm in the West could hamper post-Christmas travel

Marco della Cava
Travelers wait in security lines at the Pittsburgh International Airport on Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2018, in Moon, Pa. Thanksgiving travelers got help from favorable weather in most of the U.S. on Tuesday, but forecasters say a major winter storm across the northern tier could play havoc with travelers heading home during the weekend.'s end.

SAN FRANCISCO — A winter storm rolling east from California may vex holiday travelers later this week. 

The low pressure system, now dropping rain in the Bay Area and snow in the neighboring Sierra Nevada mountains, will make its way across the USA over the coming days packing the potential to snarl traffic and delay flights.

The powerful Pacific storm prompted the National Weather Service to issue an advisory Monday warning of heavy rains and snow throughout the West that will roar across the central plains by midweek.

"This (storm) will likely bring widespread travel impacts after Christmas with heavy rain, snow, ice, strong thunderstorms and strong winds," the advisory reads. The system "will bring potential travel trouble over the central U.S. beginning Wednesday."

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If the downside to the wintry weather is potential travel headaches, the upside is a white Christmas in many pockets of the country.

The mountains outside of Los Angeles and Palm Springs will get wind-driven snow in the coming days, while residents of Northern Arizona could get up to 3 inches of snow. 

If you're looking for a cold getaway, head to Chicago. It's 2018's best winter holiday vacation destination for cold-weather lovers, according to a WalletHub study. Experts compared 130 of the most populated U.S. metropolitan areas against six different factors to determine the ranking: travel costs and hassles, cost in destinations, attractions, weather, safety and activities. One of the Chicago activities is skating at the free McCormick Tribune Ice Rink. Check out the rest of the top 32 winter vacation destinations.

In the Midwest, lake-effect snow will be particularly heavy south of Lake Ontario before melting in above-freezing temperatures later in the week. Northern New York and most of New England will experience post-Christmas temperatures in the 40s and 50s, bringing rain instead of snow.

Because of the rain, the Washington Crossing Historic Park canceled its Christmas Day reenactment of George Washington crossing the Delaware River in 1776. Ceremonies and speeches still will occur in spite of the high river conditions, the website said.

Who will get the most snow this Christmas?

The Weather Channel says "at least 6 inches of snow is likely from parts of the central and northern Plains into the upper Midwest and northern Great Lakes" with more than a foot possible in areas getting the heaviest precipitation.

For those traveling throughout this holiday week, stay connected to the latest travel advisories through individual airlines and state highway patrol websites.

Follow USA TODAY national writer Marco della Cava on Twitter: @marcodellacava

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Winter storm in the West could hamper post-Christmas travel