clear
Friday July 31st, 2015 7:19AM

Foul weather threatens to snarl US holiday travel

By The Associated Press
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Holiday travelers in the Midwest and parts East and South were keeping a leery eye Friday on a band of foul weather stretching across the nation's midsection that was threatening to mar the opening weekend of one of the year's busiest travel periods.

Forecasters were predicting a stew of foul weekend weather, from freezing rain and snow in the north to torrential rain in the Ohio Valley and Appalachia and possibly even tornadoes in the South.

The worst of the storm wasn't expected to hit Midwest population centers until Saturday, and although few flights had been cancelled as of midday Friday, the weather was taking a toll on air travel: FlightStats.com reported more than 1,900 U.S. delays, with the most at Chicago's O'Hare, Denver International, and the three big New York-area airports.

The foul weather could cause headaches for the estimated 94.5 million Americans planning to travel by road or air during this holiday season, which runs from Saturday through New Year's Day. Concerns were similar a month ago, when a winter storm hit just as people were traveling for Thanksgiving.

Tom Griffith, a financial planner from suburban Little Rock, Ark., moved up his departure time for a two-day road trip to Cincinnati so he could get ahead of bad weather.

"The TV said severe weather would impact southeast Arkansas up to Memphis in the afternoon. My plan is to be past Memphis before noon," Griffith said Friday. "I guess my biggest concern would be the wind with the semis on the interstates."

While much of the East awoke to unusually warm temperatures on Friday, New England appeared to be next in the storm front's crosshairs, creating pre-Christmas travel worries from Chicago and Detroit to Boston and New York.

Temperatures that hovered in the 60s in some parts of the Midwest on Thursday plummeted overnight, and freezing rain Friday morning snarled traffic and forced some school closures in Michigan and Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation said Interstate 90/94 was ice-covered from Tomah and Mauston. The state was bracing for significant snow, sleet and ice.

The National Weather Service issued a flash flood watch from Arkansas northeastward through parts of Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, with up to 4 inches of rain projected. With falling temperatures, some of that could be freezing rain by Saturday night in the St. Louis area, weather service meteorologist Jon Carney said.

Forecasters said thunderstorms would likely develop in the South. The area that was most in peril stretched from central and northeastern Texas through Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas and southeast Missouri, where 80 mph wind gusts and flash flooding were possible.

By Sunday night, the storm systems will be hammering the East Coast. Some New England and mid-Atlantic states could see rare winter thunderstorms.

Tom Kines, an AccuWeather meteorologist, said the unsettled weather comes as a cold front in the northern U.S. clashes with unusually warm and humid air coming up from the South. He said that warm air will lead to record or near-record highs in many places over the next day or two. Nashville could reach into the 70s on Saturday. New York City could approach 70 degrees on Sunday.

The warm air, though, will bring plenty of trouble to some areas.

"I think there's a high likelihood there will be severe storms with hail and damaging wind" in parts of the South, Kines said. "Whether or not there's tornadoes, that's tough to say, but I will say the conditions are right."

Tornadoes are far more common in the spring and summer, but not unheard of in the winter. A tornado outbreak on Christmas Day 2012 reached from northeastern Texas through central Alabama - one twister hit Mobile, Ala. A tornado on Dec. 16, 2000, killed 11 people in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

In Vinita, Okla., on Friday, customers lined for gas at Diamond Rio convenience store in preparation for the snow and ice the region was expected to get.

Oklahoma gets more than its share of nasty weather, and Vinita resident James Allen took the forecast in stride.

"Right now I don't think it's gonna be that bad," he said. "Might be a little bit of ice and snow but I think it'll melt off in a couple of days."

Farther north, more traditional winter weather was the biggest worry. Kansas City, Mo., was bracing for freezing rain, then 6 inches of snow.

In Wisconsin, Dennis Richmond, 72, was planning to drive about 140 miles from La Crosse to Madison on Saturday to pick up his son, who's flying in for the holidays from Washington, D.C.. The Madison area was expected to get as much as 8 inches of snow, and Richmond worried that his son's flight might get delayed or canceled.

Richmond wasn't advising his son to change his itinerary because other options were limited.

"The thing is, trying to book another flight at this time of year is next to impossible," he said. "I just want to alert him to the fact he might be delayed."

In New England, Nikki Becker of the National Weather Service said much of Maine and parts of New Hampshire could get up to a half-inch of ice Saturday night through Sunday morning.

The timing couldn't be worse. AAA is projecting record travel for this holiday period, and spokeswoman Heather Hunter said more than 90 percent of travelers will get there by car. She encouraged drivers to check the weather, not only at their destination but at points along the route, before heading out. Motorists should also make sure their vehicles are road trip-ready, especially the tread and air pressure on the tires. They should also make sure there is plenty of windshield washer fluid that won't freeze.

The good news is that Christmas is mid-week.

"When a holiday falls on a Wednesday it gives travelers more flexibility of either leaving the weekend before, or traveling right before the holiday and extending the trip through the following weekend," Hunter said.
© Copyright 2015 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
S&P 500 index has its best year since 1997
The stock market closed out a record year with more all-time highs on Tuesday, giving U.S. indexes their biggest annual gains in almost two decades.
6:56PM ( 1 year ago )
Colorado readies for 'Green Wednesday' pot sales
Police were adding extra patrols around pot shops in eight Colorado towns that plan to allow recreational sales to anyone over 21 on Jan. 1.
1:52PM ( 1 year ago )
Kerry seeks framework for Mideast peace talks
A senior State Department official says Secretary of State John Kerry will try this week to get Israel and the Palestinians to agree on a framework for negotiating a final peace agreement, yet cautions against raising expectations for Kerry's latest round of shuttle diplomacy.
1:35PM ( 1 year ago )
U.S. News
Missing Ga. bank director arrested in Brunswick
A bank director accused of losing millions of investors' dollars before vanishing last year was arrested Tuesday during a traffic stop in a city in south Georgia.
7:00PM ( 1 year ago )
Amtrak to suspend some Crescent service in Jan., Feb.
Amtrak service will shut down in parts of the Southeast for several days in January and February for rail maintenance by Norfolk Southern Railway.
9:00AM ( 1 year ago )
Lung cancer scans urged for some smokers, not all
Certain current or former heavy smokers should start getting yearly scans for lung cancer to cut their risk of death from the nation's top cancer killer, government advisers said Monday - even as they stressed that the tests aren't for everyone.
7:26AM ( 1 year ago )
Business News
Sex offender held in Hall County for failing to register
A 47-year-old man was booked into the Hall County Jail Tuesday, being held without bond for allegedly failing to register as a sex offender, his second such arrest.
6:09PM ( 1 year ago )
Pharmacy robberies may involve same suspect
Oakwood Police Tuesday afternoon released details in a pharmacy robbery they're investigating, similar to one that happened in the Hall County Tuesday morning.
5:46PM ( 1 year ago )
Victim critical following apartment fire
A 41-year-old woman was in critical but stable condition Tuesday after being rescued from an apartment fire in Forsyth County late Monday afternoon.
3:16PM ( 1 year ago )
Local/State News
Congress heading on vacation, putting off messy decisions
WASHINGTON (AP) — As lawmakers head out of the Capitol for a five-week summer recess, they leave behind a pile of unfinished business that all but guarantees a painful fall.Not long after they return...
3:31AM ( 3 hours ago )
Rescuers hope for 'best-case scenario' for boys lost at sea
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Mustering hope for a "best-case scenario" in the face of countless unknowns, search crews braced for a seventh day and night at sea Thursday in the hunt for two teenagers...
6:22PM ( 12 hours ago )
Democrats consider distance from Jefferson, Jackson
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Democratic parties in the three states that start the presidential nominating process are exploring ending their association with two former White House occupants: Thomas Jefferso...
4:41PM ( 14 hours ago )
Afghan Taliban confirm Mullah Omar's death, choose successor
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Taliban confirmed the death of longtime leader Mullah Mohammad Omar and appointed his successor Thursday, as a new round of peace talks was indefinitely postponed amid co...
4:19PM ( 15 hours ago )
3.3 million dry erase boards recalled after due to cut risk
NEW YORK (AP) — Acco Brands Corp. is recalling about 3.3 million wall-mounted dry erase boards after customers said they cut their hands, fingers and feet while removing the board from a wall.The U.S....
12:33PM ( 18 hours ago )