WEATHER NEWS: When will the winter storm end? Here’s when travel conditions will ease


Travel remained substantially compromised across the nation Friday as an Arctic front and winter storm bring icy precipitation, plunging temperatures and high winds in the East and blizzard conditions over parts of the Great Lakes. The falling snow that snarled travel in the Midwest and Ohio Valley on Thursday has largely subsided, but blowing snow will continue to disrupt air travel and create low visibility for drivers into Saturday.

The number of flight cancellations and delays at U.S. airports was continuing to grow as of midday Friday, with more than 5,000 delays and 4,000 cancellations. So when will things start to improve?

Here is a breakdown by region of expected travel conditions over the next few days and through New Year’s Eve weekend.

Mid-Atlantic and Northeast: Gradual weekend improvement, but cold

The Arctic front and risk of flash freeze moves up the Interstate 95 corridor Friday, reaching New York City by mid- to late afternoon and Boston this evening.

Gusty winds before and during the frontal passage may contribute to flight delays and cancellations, but also should dry much of the moisture on main roads before subfreezing temperatures arrive soon after, as was the case when the front plowed through the Washington, D.C., area Friday morning. Still, there could be enough wet spots and puddles for patchy black ice to form, especially on side streets, sidewalks and driveways north and west of the urban centers.

Air travel and road conditions should be much improved this weekend throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast despite bitter cold temperatures, as wind gusts become somewhat weaker, with no precipitation expected. Rail disruptions in the Northeast corridor due to wind, downed trees and flooding should improve this weekend as well.

Midwest and Great Lakes: Lake-effect snow could last into Christmas

Most of the falling snow has come to an end, with the exception of locations along the south and east sides of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, where cities including Cleveland and Rochester, N.Y., will continue to see lake-effect snow showers through the weekend.

How the size and depth of the Great Lakes affect how much snow falls

It will be more than just snow showers in Buffalo, where another 2 feet or more of snow through Saturday night will continue to cripple all forms of travel to, from and around the Buffalo area. Several more inches of lake-effect snow could also fall through Saturday night along the east side of Lake Michigan, including in Grand Rapids, Mich., and South Bend, Ind.

Blowing of existing snow, as opposed to new falling snow, is predicted to persist across much of the Midwest and Great Lakes through Saturday before easing for Christmas Day. Blowing snow, while perhaps patchy rather than widespread, could lower visibilities and cause additional flight delays and cancellations at major hubs including Chicago, Detroit and Minneapolis. Patchy areas of blowing snow could also reduce visibility on roads into Saturday across the Upper Midwest and northern portions of the Ohio Valley, as far south as Des Moines; Indianapolis; Columbus, Ohio; and Pittsburgh.

The blowing snow and cold temperatures could continue to disrupt rail service across the Midwest and Great Lakes, where some routes have already been canceled through the weekend.

Pacific Northwest: Stormy through the weekend

Outside of the Great Lakes, the weather should be trending better for most of the country. One exception is the Pacific Northwest, where precipitation that started as ice Friday continues through the weekend as periods of occasionally heavy rain. That could mean more problems for flights in and out of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, which was seeing the most delays and cancellations of any airport in the world as of midday Friday, according to FlightAware.

Travel in and around Portland, Ore., is likely to be affected by freezing rain Friday afternoon and night, and then periods of occasionally heavy rain this weekend.

A thaw next week into New Year’s Eve weekend

Heavy rain is a travel concern for the Pacific Northwest and Northern California early next week, but the weather should be relatively calm and dry most of the week across the vast majority of the country.

Over the course of next week, temperatures will trend from below average to above average over most of the Lower 48 states.

Scientists say Arctic warming could be to blame for blasts of extreme cold

Another storm could affect travel next weekend from the Gulf Coast to the Midwest and Eastern Seaboard. But this time the precipitation will almost certainly be in the form of rain, with temperatures potentially 15 to 25 degrees above normal, which would translate to daytime highs in the 50s and 60s across much of the eastern half of the nation.

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