Travelers setting out for the holidays could face trouble, with anticipated Christmas Eve snow around the Great Lakes states and heavy rain expected along the East Coast.
National Weather Service meteorologists predicted rain that would turn into snow for some parts of Missouri to Michigan, with several inches expected Wednesday in portions of Illinois. Officials at both airport hubs in Chicago readied for the potential of holiday delays and cancellations, particularly with more people expected to fly this year.
“I would definitely make plans about possibly staying put or doing something else,” said Chicago-area meteorologist Charles Mott. “Same for the roads. If you’re not going to fly, the roads are not going to be getting any better.”
About 4.2 million passengers are expected through O’Hare and Midway international airports during an 18-day holiday travel period ending Jan. 6, said Chicago Aviation Department spokeswoman Karen Pride. That would be a 3 percent increase at O’Hare and a 9 percent jump at Midway compared with last year. Pride urged travelers to allow plenty of time and monitor airlines closely.
On Tuesday, a storm system developed in the Gulf States, generating tornadoes that left four people dead, damaging some buildings and leaving thousands without power. It was expected to drop rain along the East Coast.
The severe weather caused some delays at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport — though airport spokesman Reese McCranie said in an email he was not aware of any cancellations. He said the airport did not expect a ground stop.
Elsewhere, a blast of cold and snowy conditions affected travel Tuesday.
In Nevada, the National Weather Service says a strong cold front will move through the western part of the state Wednesday night into Thursday on the heels of record-high temperatures.
The heaviest snow is forecast after 4 p.m. Wednesday, with up to 10 inches expected on mountain passes by Thursday morning.
Dozens of flights in and out of Philadelphia International Airport were canceled and others saw delays of about two hours due to bad weather and low clouds.
In eastern Colorado, Interstate 70 was shut down into Kansas for eight hours because of strong winds and blowing snow. Farther west, blowing snow also led to part of U.S. Highway 285 being closed at some points Tuesday.
Parts of western South Dakota saw snow accumulations of a foot or more through Tuesday morning. Higher elevations in the Black Hills got close to 2 feet.
But not all winter enthusiasts were so lucky.
Snow isn’t expected in other parts of South Dakota until Friday. Sioux Falls resident Alana Amdahl said she’s disappointed about the lack of snow projected for Christmas.
“We live in South Dakota for a reason,” said Amdahl, 27. “We don’t have palm trees to put Christmas lights on, we have evergreens. Of course, we need snow. It can melt after the new year.”
Follow Sophia Tareen at http://twitter.com/sophiatareen .
Associated Press writers Regina Garcia Cano in Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Colleen Slevin in Denver; Phillip Lucas in Atlanta; and Michael Sisak in Philadelphia contributed to this report
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