Fox News Weather Center

2017 Memorial Day weekend: Storms may threaten outdoor celebrations in central, eastern US

As millions take to the road for the first unofficial weekend of summer and others partake in honorary ceremonies, warmth and sunshine will build in the West, while cool air and downpours progress across the central and eastern United States this Memorial Day weekend.

"Nearly 40 million plan to travel more than 50 miles from home this Memorial Day weekend, which is the largest number expected in more than a decade," according to the American Automobile Association (AAA).

The weather will cooperate for many of those hitting the roads or taking to the air this weekend. However, there will be some trouble spots for travel and outdoor activities due to storms.

Static US Memorial Day Weekend

Storms to turn heavy, gusty in central US

The greatest chance of storms with flooding rain and damaging wind gusts will be across portions of the Central states from Saturday to Sunday in response to a buildup of moisture and some warmth toward the end of this week.

"We expect a zone of heavy rain and strong thunderstorms to develop and extend from parts of the central Plains to a portion of the middle Mississippi Valley on Saturday," according to AccuWeather Long-Range Meteorologist Jack Boston.

The storms may lead to airline delays as they approach and pass through major airports. Downpours on some of the highways in the region will raise the risk of hydroplane-related accidents. Motorists should allow extra time due to the risks that heavy rainfall pose.

Clouds and thunderstorms may hinder some activities at the Salute to Veterans Celebration and Airshow at Columbia, Missouri, this weekend.

"Severe storms and the risk of flooding downpours may then shift to parts of the southern Plains and the lower Mississippi, Ohio and Tennessee valleys on Sunday," Boston said.

Depending on the speed of this storm system, rain and thunder could linger for the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday.

Should the storm move swiftly along, the weather may clear for the race. If the storm is slower, then delays and a postponement could occur.

A new batch of cool air will push from the northern Plains and into the Mississippi Valley as the weekend progresses.

By Memorial Day, there is a chance that dry weather expands over much of the Central states.

Break from rain may not last the entire Memorial Day weekend in East

Following wet and unsettled conditions during much of this week, most areas in the East can expect a dry start to the Memorial Day weekend with a warming trend.

"While we expect building warmth during at least part of the Memorial Day weekend along the Atlantic Seaboard, we do not expect a repeat of last week's record warmth," according to AccuWeather Lead Long-Range Meteorologist Paul Pastelok.

The best days for a swim at the lake or ocean and catching some rays will be on Saturday and Sunday. Be sure to check on ocean water temperatures before taking a trip to the beach as temperatures can vary from day to day.

A couple of storm systems may bring the risk for spotty rain, however. A lingering storm may continue to dampen New England on Saturday. The same storm that will disrupt activities in the central U.S. may also return some rain to the East later in the weekend.

While there is some uncertainty to the timing of the Midwest storm, building warmth and humidity could lead to an eruption of showers and thunderstorms from the Appalachians to the Interstate 95 corridor by Memorial Day.

Static Arlington National Cemetery 2016

American flags wave in the breeze at every headstone at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, on May 26, 2016. Soldiers place nearly a quarter of a million flags at the cemetery as part of a Memorial Day tradition. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Regardless of the multiple chances of rain in parts of the East this weekend, most areas will be free of rain most of the time. Even those visiting the rainiest locations can expect enough dry weather and sunshine.

Sunshine and warmth in store for western US

A lack of storms will translate to sunshine and summerlike weather for much of the Western states this weekend. Despite the warmth, most areas will not be as hot as that at the start of the week.

Sunglasses, shorts and sunscreen will be the necessary attire for most locations from much of the Intermountain West to the Pacific coast.

Even the immediate coastal cities from Seattle to San Francisco and Los Angeles can expect a minimum of six hours of sunshine on at least two out of three days this weekend.

A few storms will dot the Rockies, mainly from the Continental Divide to the Foothills each day. Hikers should be prepared for the risk of lightning strikes during the afternoon and evening hours.

Storms are not likely to erupt over the Cascades and Sierra Nevada this weekend.

Campers should use caution with open flames as the vegetation has begun to dry out despite a wet winter and early spring.