By Alex Sosnowski, Senior Meteorologist for AccuWeather.com
AccuWeather Global Headquarters – December 21, 2017 – AccuWeather reports as millions take to the roads or prepare to fly to their destinations, winter storms will be on the prowl in the central and eastern United States through Christmas morning.
A record 107.3 million people will take to planes, trains, aircraft and buses during the period from Saturday, Dec. 23, through Monday, Jan 1, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA).
While no intense storms are forecast, there will be areas of rain, ice and snow affecting heavily populated areas and popular travel routes.
The first storm will move on to target areas from the upper Gulf coast to the lower Great Lakes, central and southern Appalachians and the Interstate 95 corridor of the Northeast with rain from Friday to Saturday.
Snow, ice and treacherous travel from the first storm will spread from the central Great Lakes to part of the central Appalachians and New England into Saturday.
Another storm to blanket Rockies, Plains and Upper Midwest with snow into Christmas Eve
The second storm of concern will bring accumulating snow to the central Rockies, including the Denver area on Saturday, before turning eastward Saturday night and Sunday.
It is this second storm that has the greatest potential to leave some snow on the ground for a white Christmas in parts of the central Plains, Ohio Valley states and central Appalachians.
Airline delays will be possible due to deicing operations while portions of I-25, I-35, I-69, I-70, I-74, I-75, I-77, I-80 and I-90 will be slippery.
Accumulating snow is forecast in Omaha, Nebraska; Kansas City, Missouri; Des Moines, Iowa; St. Louis; Chicago; Indianapolis; Detroit; Cleveland and Toronto as it rolls out Saturday night and Christmas Eve. Snow may cover the ground in Evansville, Indiana; Louisville, Kentucky; and Cincinnati, Dayton and Columbus, Ohio.
Snow showers may linger over the central and northern Rockies in the wake of the storm.
The same storm is also projected to spread snow into parts of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and western New York at night on Christmas Eve.
It is after dark on Christmas Eve, when the storm from the Midwest will attempt to join up with a budding storm along the Atlantic coast.
Third storm to bring snow to part of mid-Atlantic, New England Sunday night to Christmas Day
The track and strength of the storm, as well as the speed at which much colder air arrives, will determine the form of precipitation from parts of eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey to southeastern New England from Sunday night to early Christmas Day.
At this time, all or mostly rain is forecast from Washington, D.C., to Philadelphia and Atlantic City, New Jersey.
However, snow and sleet are likely to mix in toward the end of the storm from near Allentown and Scranton, Pennsylvania, to Trenton, New Jersey; New York City; Hartford, Connecticut; Providence, Rhode Island; and Boston late Sunday night to Christmas morning.
If the two storms merge together and strengthen at a fast pace, then accumulating snow may fall as far to the southwest as Washington, D.C.
The storms are likely to come together fast enough to bring a heavy snowfall for much of central and northwestern New England and northeastern New York state on Christmas Day. It is in these areas where travel to church services, friends and family may be difficult.
Elsewhere, dry weather and a wildfire risk will continue in California, while a couple of storms may bring rounds of mixed precipitation to the coastal Northwest into Christmas Day.
Much colder air entering the middle of the nation during the weekend prior to Christmas will be just the start of a frigid weather pattern for many. Aside from storms, a broadening blast of cold air will be a major factor in the weather during the week of Christmas.
The frigid air will unleash bands of lake-effect snow and may pave the way for snow and ice as additional storms are likely to come about.