It’s no secret that days leading up to Christmas are some of the busiest travel days of the year, as families travel across the country to reunite. Unfortunately mother nature does not always cooperate. This year appears more dicey than most, with rain, snow, and icy roads possible across the midwest.
A cold front will push across the Great Lakes region early Saturday, ushering in a broad region of showers stretching from New York, through Ohio, and south into Alabama. Traveling along I-95 near Lake Erie, along with I-65 and 75 south of Cincinnati will have plenty of rain to deal with. Slowdowns are possible with increased chances for accidents and limited visibility. A moderate chance for flooding from western Tennessee in to Arkansas is also in place. This means that localized flooding will be possible in these regions that experience the heaviest rains.
Airports south of the Ohio River may see delays due to heavier rain, but relief will quickly come as showers lift out of the region by late Friday afternoon. Rain will continue across the mid-Atlantic through the overnight hours on Saturday. While regions north of I-71 in Ohio have the chance to see a mix between rain and snow beginning as soon as the afternoon. Accumulations will be somewhat limited due to how warm the ground is, but caution should be used Saturday night in northern Ohio and Indiana. A heavy enough snowfall rate can overcome a warmer surface, allowing snow to stick to any surface.
“Motorists are advised to use extra caution if traveling this Holiday weekend with the potential for accumulating snow. Slick spots will be possible on area roadways along with reduced visibilities.” – NWS Wilmington, Ohio
Conditions early Sunday will be cloudy and calm. The exiting system continues east, with a smaller clipper system scooting in form the west. With the recent passage of the cold front, travel conditions across the Ohio Valley will become more hazardous through the later afternoon. Due to a second, more broad, region of snow showers. A rain-snow mix is possible across southern Indiana, with snow chances increasing to the northeast.
Snowfall accumulations south of the Ohio into West Virginia will be less than an inch, increasing to the north as regions near Toledo and Cleveland seeing totals closer to 3 inches. Travel-wise, delays are most likely through Sunday evening, with slick conditions. Untreated surfaces will be especially slick, as icy spots become possible overnight. The bottom line, traveling through Northern Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York on Sunday afternoon will slow going. Airport delays in Columbus, Cleveland, Detroit and Buffalo are also on the table, but will depend largely on the intensity of the system.
Looking to travel on Christmas Day? Well then you’re mostly in luck! The clipper system exits the Great Lakes region early Monday. Clearing out any lingering snow showers across eastern Ohio into western Pennsylvania. High pressure will move into the Tennessee Valley, with regions along the Great Lakes potentially seeing some mild lake-effect snow. The I-95 corridor will be the most likely to see delays across northeast Ohio, but overall conditions will be favorable. Leftover snow from Sunday may still leave roads slick, but will be favorable to dry out as sunshine begins to peak through across much of the region. Refreezing of surfaces Monday night will also be possible. Travel conditions the day after Christmas become more favorable as a more robust high pressure system moves in from Canada.