A storm forecast to deliver snow to the Southwest by New Year's Day will spread a swath of snow, ice, rain and potential travel problems into the Central and Eastern states this weekend.
The path the storm takes after crossing the Mississippi River will determine which areas will be at risk for travel-disrupting snow and a wintry mix versus no precipitation or nuisance rainfall.
According to AccuWeather.com Chief Meteorologist Elliot Abrams, "The track of that storm as it moves into the Central and Eastern states has yet to be confirmed, but there will surely be disruptive snow and ice north of the storm track."
At this time, there are two main paths for the storm to take over the eastern half of the nation.
Most Likely Scenario: Storm Heads for Great Lakes
The more likely scenario is for the storm to strengthen and turn sharply to the northeast. In this case, the storm would take a path directly over the Great Lakes.
Warm air would win the battle in most areas south and east of the storm track with the major form of precipitation being rain with some snow or wintry mix limited to the onset of the storm. Most of the storm would be rain in the Ohio Valley.
With this path, a swath of accumulating snow could reach across the general area from near St. Louis to Chicago, Milwaukee and Detroit. The exact track of the storm will determine the dividing line between rain and snow.
If cold air lingers for an extended period in part of the Northeast, such as northern New England and perhaps part of the mid-Atlantic Interstate-81 corridor, then a period of accumulating snow and ice would change to rain around Boston, Albany, New York City and Hartford, Connecticut.
According to AccuWeather.com Senior Meteorologist Bernie Rayno, "Central and northern New England have the potential for a significant snow and/or ice event and multiple hours of slippery travel on the front side of the storm prior to any warmup."
"At this time, it appears most locations along the I-95 swath from Washington, D.C., to Philadelphia and New York City would still warm up quickly with all or mostly rain for the storm," Ranyo said.
Rain, locally gusty wind and low cloud ceilings could still cause flight delays and problems for motorists in a large part of the South, Ohio Valley and Northeast.
Alternate Scenario: Storm Takes Southern Route
A somewhat less likely scenario is for the storm to remain weak and take a more southern path.
Such a path for a storm would result in lower temperatures and a chance of snow or a wintry mix occurring farther south in the mid-Atlantic and perhaps part of the Ohio Valley.
If the storm was to take a more southern route, there could be a period of snow and ice extending eastward across a significant part of the I-95 mid-Atlantic corridor.
Either Way: Rain to Soak South; Snow for Central, Southern Plains
Regardless of which path the storm takes, the atmosphere will be too warm for snow and ice over much of the Southern states. Rounds of rain will push eastward from coastal Texas to the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida.
The intensity of the storm system itself will determine whether or thunderstorms occur with the risk of severe weather.
During the early stages of the storm, ice will glaze surfaces in portions of central and western Texas during the middle of the week. A swath of ice will be followed by accumulating snow in parts of Oklahoma, Kansas and western Missouri at the end of the week.
People traveling around Oklahoma City; Wichita, Kansas; and Kansas City and Springfield, Missouri, should be prepared for slippery conditions and delays late Friday into Saturday.
"While the path of the storm remains uncertain in the Midwest and East, people while will be traveling this weekend should consider doing so on Saturday, rather than Sunday to reduce the risk of delays and disruptions," Abrams said.