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Christmas Travel: Snow to slick roads from Great Lakes to Northeast; rain to cause delays in Northwest

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Those planning on hitting the road early this year to head to their Christmas destination may face weather issues along their journey.

According to the American Automobile Association, more than 103 million Americans are expected to travel for the holiday season, the most on record.

While not everyone will face weather hazards in their travels, there will be some areas of the country that will be at a higher risk of travel delays and dangers.

Temperatures will rebound from the recent arctic chill in the eastern half of the U.S., but a quick-moving storm system will cause slick roads and travel delays from the Midwest to the Northeast.

Travel in the Northwest will once again be impaired as several storm systems take aim on the region at the end of the week.

Snow showers to slow travel across Great Lakes, interior Northeast; rain to accompany mild air near coast

A quick-moving storm system may help kick on the lake-effect snow machine for a time on Thursday into Friday, sending lake-effect snow showers into the interior Northeast.

While temperatures are expected to rebound at midweek ahead of this system, a brief shot of cold air will follow in the wake of this storm system and help send snow showers downwind of the Great Lakes.

Folks traveling near the Great Lakes may encounter fast-changing weather conditions. The most intense snow showers could bring brief but dangerous whiteouts and quick road accumulations. However, accumulations are not expected to rival those of last week.

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Farther east, mild air will hold on longer and bring mostly rain from the mid-Atlantic to southern New England on Thursday. Dreary and wet conditions may slow some travel across the region.

"Some light rain may slow travel at the major airport hubs in the Northeast, including Boston, New York City and Washington D.C.," AccuWeather meteorologist Danny Pydynowski said.

Across New England, cold air will rush in fast enough for some rain to briefly change over to snow. This could result in some slick spots on untreated roadways.

Motorists will want to be alert Thursday night for any lingering wet spots that may freeze.

Friday, Dec. 23 may be the busiest Christmas travel day and weather conditions are expected to improve for many across the Northeast and mid-Atlantic as the storm system speeds off.

“Ground and air travel along the the East Coast looks better on Friday with dry weather up and down the I-95 corridor,” Pydynowksi said.

Dry weather and sunshine will return and will make for better travel conditions across the entire region.

Northwest to turn unsettled as snow and rain disrupts travel

Following a brief break Wednesday, the Northwest will turn unsettled again with another storm system passing through at the end of the week.

A surge of Pacific moisture will lead to steady rain and clouds along the I-5 corridor from Seattle to Portland.

“The arrival of rain could slow travel and lead to air travel delays in Portland and Seattle,” Pydynowski said.

In addition to I-5, I-84, I-90 and other connecting highways may also feature slow travel and delays.

Heavy snow will fall across the Cascades and lowering snow levels late Thursday will bring hazardous travel to those traveling by vehicle over the mountains.

The heaviest snow will fall Thursday into Thursday night and approach a foot across the Washington Cascades. Snow will expand into the Bitterroots and Tetons Thursday night.

Travel issues are expected to linger across the Northwest Friday but also expand farther eastward.

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A gusty breeze could also present steering issues across the High Plains, especially for high-profile vehicles.

While noticeably lighter, rain will keep roadways wet around Seattle and Portland on Friday.

Rain and thunderstorms to slowly push across Southeast

A cold front will slowly push across the Southeast at the end of the week and will bring a period of rain and perhaps some thunderstorms to the region. Motorists will put their wipers to good use.

While the rain is not expected to be heavy, any thunderstorm could bring a brief downpour. Motorists will want to be on alert for lowered visibility and standing water on roadways.

The front will slow down across Florida on Friday, resulting in rain and clouds most of the day.

Travel conditions will greatly improve behind the front across the Southeast as high pressure moves in on Friday.