As millions of people focus on last-minute holiday preparations, family gatherings and travel in the days leading up to Christmas, there will be the potential for severe weather in the southeastern United States.
Following a break from rain and warmth this weekend, storm systems will return to the Eastern states and could bring rare December thunderstorms.
Typically, a lack of warmth and strong sunshine are strong deterrents against severe weather during the winter months.
However, strong storm systems can produce severe weather during the winter.
The weather pattern next week with the combination of surging warmth and a series of storms tracking northeastward from the Gulf of Mexico will raise the risk of severe weather.
Severe thunderstorms could develop next week from Tuesday to Christmas Eve.
The greatest threat to long-distance travelers and local commuters will be areas of flash flooding. The flash flooding potential will extend from the parts of the central Gulf coast and southern Atlantic states to the mid-Atlantic and New England.
In some areas, several inches of rain will fall upon saturated ground, which can cause small streams to rise out of their banks and flood roadways.
According to AccuWeather Assistant Director of Storm Warning Services Andrew Gagnon, "There is the potential for thunderstorms with strong winds in the Southeast states, which, under certain conditions could evolve enough to produce a few isolated tornadoes."
"It is possible a few gusty storms reach as far to the north as parts of the mid-Atlantic and New England," Gagnon said.
How extensive and how intense the severe weather risk becomes will depend on the strength of the storms.
Even though the air will be very warm near the ground, the atmosphere may be too cloudy and perhaps too moist for a major severe weather outbreak.
Should the storm systems remain relatively weak and fast-moving, as suspected at this time, the severe weather risk will be minimal.
Only if one of the storms strengthens significantly and tracks farther north and west than anticipated could the severe weather risk evolve into a major outbreak with a significant number of tornadoes.
The potential for episodes of strong storms and severe weather will continue beyond the Christmas holiday.
Thus far in 2015, there have been only 10 tornado-related fatalities in the United States, which is significantly lower than the 20-year average.
AccuWeather meteorologists will continue to monitor the severe weather potential as well as other conditions that could affect your holiday plans in attempts to help keep you safe and informed.