Will Snow Hit Christmas Travel Plans? U.S. Weather Forecast

Travelers in parts of the Western U.S. may see their Christmas travel plans be impacted by snow and wintry weather conditions.

Winter Storm Warnings and Winter Weather Advisories are in effect in portions of the region, due to snow and the "potential for hazardous travel conditions" through the Christmas weekend, the National Weather Service (NWS) said Thursday.

Heavy mountain snow is expected in the Western U.S. this weekend. Snow showers are forecast across the Great Lakes and the Northeast region on Thursday before switching to a mix of snow and rain on Friday, the federal body said.

There is a potential for over five feet of snow to accumulate through Christmas morning in the Sierra Nevada region, while one to four feet is expected across the rest of the western mountain ranges, according to the NWS National Weather Prediction Center (WPC).

Winter Storm Warnings are in place in parts of Washington state, Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah and Colorado. Winter Weather Advisories have been issued for parts of upstate New York, northeastern Pennsylvania and northern Maine.

The WPC explained: "To the east, a quasi-stationary boundary extending through the Great Lakes will be the focus for the development of light snow from the Upper Midwest to the Northeast through Friday morning.

"As a warm front approaches from the southwest on Friday a rain/snow mix will emerge, allowing for freezing rain to form and a thin layer of ice to accumulate over portions of the Upper Midwest, New York, and southern New England," the federal body said.

The Western U.S. will also see periods of heavy low elevation rain through the Christmas weekend. "Flash flooding and debris flows are possible in the vicinity of recently burned areas," the NWS tweeted Thursday.

High winds may also cause power outages and make traveling difficult on Thursday in the central and southern Rockies region.

A tight pressure gradient on Thursday is expected to generate strong winds with gusts "up to and exceeding 65 mph," especially in the southern High Plains. These winds can make travel hazardous due to their potential to cause power outages and blow down trees, the NWS said.

High Wind Watches and Wind Advisories are in effect in parts of the High Plains as well as the central and southern Rockies, including southern Colorado, north and central New Mexico and northern Texas.

In terms of temperatures, much of the U.S. will see "above normal highs and record warmth" in some locations through the holiday weekend, the WPC tweeted Wednesday.

But temperatures in the Northern Plains and northwest will see highs "trend below freezing, with some even below zero by Monday," the federal body explained.

A warm and dry weather pattern over the central U.S. will see daily high temperatures across the Plains and the Mississippi Valley region rise significantly.

The largest departures from normal temperatures are likely to be felt over the Southern Plains, where mercury levels are forecast to be 25 to 30 degrees above normal on Friday, hitting highs in the 70s and 80s Fahrenheit range.

However, temperatures along the east and west coasts of the country are expected to be near or moderately below normal, the WPC said Thursday.

A snow-covered Massachusetts street in December 2020.
A view of a snow-covered street is seen in Everett, Massachusetts on December 17, 2020. Travelers in the Western U.S. may see their Christmas travel plans be impacted by snow and wintry weather conditions this weekend. Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images