Huge winter storm to severely impact holiday travel

Worst weather will be in the Midwest and Northeast

A snowstorm covers cars in Chicago in 2021. A massive winter storm will impact much of the Midwest and Northeast Thursday and Friday. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File) (Charles Rex Arbogast, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A massive winter storm is taking aim at the eastern United States, producing blizzard conditions and snarling road and air traffic during the busy holiday stretch.

This winter storm will create significant impacts across much of the Midwest and Northeast just before the Christmas weekend.

Midwest impacts

Winter storm watches and warnings already extend from Minnesota to New York in anticipation of the storm. This is the primary corridor where the weather will be the worst.

Snowfall over 8 inches is possible across portions of the Great Lakes Thursday night through Friday.

Midwest snowfall totals through Saturday AM

In addition, blizzard conditions will be possible across portions of the Midwest.

A ground blizzard may develop on Friday. This is where intense winds blow snow around that has already fallen on the ground, creating whiteout conditions.

Winds will also be a major concern across much of the region, where wind gusts over 50 mph will be common.

Midwest Wind Gusts Friday PM

This will create power outages and could be enough to tip over semitractor-trailer on north-south interstates.

Northeast impacts

The Northeastern U.S. will escape some of the worst weather, but this will still be a high-impact event.

Periods of heavy rain will be possible across many of the big cities in the Northeast starting late Thursday.

Northeast rainfall totals through Saturday AM

The bigger snows will stay in western areas, in cities like Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Buffalo, New York.

Winds will also be a huge concern, with winds over 50 mph possible across much of the Northeast.

Northeast wind gusts Friday PM

The rain will likely convert to snow at the tail end of the system in the big northeast cities on Friday, with minimal accumulations.

Travel impacts

The travel impacts with this large winter storm will be extensive and long-lasting, impacting both road and air travel.

Road travel across much of the Midwest, including along major interstates like I-90, I-80 and I-55 will be nearly impossible on Thursday and Friday due to blowing snow and strong winds.

Air travel will also be massively impacted.

Major airports like Chicago O’Hare, Detroit and Minneapolis will likely feature hundreds of cancellations both Thursday and Friday.

Midwest travel forecast Thursday

The Northeast airports will also feature significant impacts late Thursday into Friday.

Significant delays and cancellations should be expected at most of the major northeast airports, including Washington Dulles, Philadelphia, the New York City airports and Boston.

Northeast travel forecast Thursday

The air impacts will likely be so significant the issues will cascade across the country, with cancellations and delays across much of the country late week.

Travel is strongly encouraged on Wednesday and on Christmas Eve to avoid this major disruption.

Southern cold

It’s not just the Northeast and Midwest that will be impacted by this storm.

Almost all of the Southern U.S. will be dealing with severe cold and dangerous wind chills.

Wind chill alerts extend from Arkansas down to the northern Gulf Coast, with additional advisories likely into portions of Florida.

Southeast feels like temperatures Saturday AM

Morning lows in the Southern U.S. will tumble into the teens and 20s, with “feels like” temperatures below 0.

This winter storm will likely go into the record books, and the timing couldn’t be worse as it is hitting during the peak of the holiday travel season.


About the Author:

David Heckard is The Weather Authority's Assistant Chief Meteorologist.