Forecasters are keeping an eye on storms in several regions of the U.S. that could dump cold rain or even some snow in the Baltimore-Washington area in the days just before Thanksgiving, potentially complicating plans during the busiest travel time of the year.
An arctic front delivered the season's coldest weather so far to the Mid-Atlantic on Sunday, ending a stretch of mild weather for the East Coast. Temperatures on Sunday are expected to range from 10 to 30 degrees below average, and some flurries are even possible around the Baltimore region, according to a forecast from the National Weather Service. Also on Sunday, the Maryland Transportation Authority issued wind restrictions on the Bay Bridge, and wind warnings on the Key Bridge.
Elsewhere, a dangerous storm that brought snow and drenching rains to the southwestern United States — and is blamed for several road deaths — is threatening Thanksgiving travel for millions of people in the eastern states, forecasters said.
The storm is expected to bring heavy rain to the Southeast on Tuesday and then turn north and move up the East Coast, possibly disrupting travel through Wednesday, according to the meteorologists at AccuWeather.com.
"If the storm hugs the coast and develops to its full potential, it could be a flight nightmare, not only for travelers in the East, but also throughout the nation," AccuWeather.com's Evan Myers said.
The forecast for the week may include rain in the I-95 corridor between Baltimore and Washington from late Tuesday into Wednesday, a forecaster in the agency's Sterling, Va., office said Saturday. Forecasters were calling for more than six inches of snow this weekend in northwestern Pennsylvania into western New York, according to the National Weather Service.
"There's still a whole lot of uncertainty," Lora Wilson, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said in an interview. For now, the forecast was for heavy rain on Tuesday and Wednesday for much of the East Coast. "If that's the case it will be your typical soggy-rainy-delay-type situation," she said.
Closer to Thanksgiving, "the best chance in the corridor for snow is in the higher elevations, and that looks like rain mixed with snow, potentially late Tuesday into Wednesday," said Dan Hofmann, a meteorologist based in Sterling. "At this point, it looks like it probably wouldn't be all snow, even in the mountains."
"There's still a whole lot of uncertainty," Lora Wilson, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said in an interview. For now, the forecast was for heavy rain on Tuesday and Wednesday for much of the East Coast.
"If that's the case it will be your typical soggy-rainy-delay-type situation," she said, adding that skies will largely clear for Thanksgiving itself and the rest of the weekend.
The wintry mix would coincide with the busy travel period just before Thanksgiving. An estimated 903,000 Maryland residents will be among the 43.4 million Americans expected to travel more than 50 miles for the holiday, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic. Most will travel by car; about 3 million people will fly to their destinations, according to AAA.
Still, "there's a lot of uncertainty in the forecast," Hofmann said. "There could definitely be substantial changes in tracking temperatures."
The winter storm in Texas and another near Alaska "will interact near the East Coast, and how they interact will determine the strength and track of the storm on the East Coast," Hofmann said.
AAA's travel forecast is not likely to change significantly because of storm forecasts, said Nancy White, a AAA spokeswoman.
"While we may see people changing travel plans based on weather, the great majority of people are going to head out for the holiday…particularly with a holiday like Thanksgiving over a long weekend."
Wednesday is expected to be the busiest travel day, with 37 percent of travelers leaving that day and most of them driving as opposed to flying, according to AAA's survey.
On Monday by contrast, when nearly a quarter of travelers expect to depart, most will fly rather than drive, AAA said.
"Any kind of inclement weather will create a glitch in many travelers' plans, particularly if they're flying," said Christine Sarames Delise, a spokeswoman for AAA Mid-Atlantic.
Reuters contributed to this story.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun