Icy and snowy conditions along with heavy rain could snarl traffic and complicate air travel in Maryland and many parts of the eastern United States on Tuesday and Wednesday — two of the biggest travel days of the year as people head home for Thanksgiving.
A wintry mix of snow or sleet and freezing rain could disrupt the Tuesday morning commute, turning to a heavy, cold rain along the Interstate 95 corridor into Wednesday. Before it's over, cold air rushing in behind the storm could produce a flourish of wet snow showers Wednesday evening, forecasters said.
As much as 2 inches of rain is forecast in the Baltimore area, and 4 inches to 8 inches of snow is possible in far Western Maryland.
"The effects for people trying to go out [Interstates] 70 or 68 could be pretty substantial," said Chris Strong, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service Baltimore-Washington forecast office in Sterling, Va.
Combined with windy conditions, the rain could complicate travel even if temperatures remain above freezing. West Virginia and up to New York could get more snow, and rain is expected up the I-95 corridor to Boston.
"Flight delays will be a problem not only in Baltimore but for flights coming in from, say, New York or Boston," said Randy Adkins, a meteorologist with AccuWeather.com. "Even if things aren't overly bad in Baltimore by the end of the day Wednesday, they're still going to be pretty bad farther northeast."
Strong cautioned extra care and time should be taken on Tuesday morning's commute, and to expect freezing rain into the day to the north and west of Baltimore. The heaviest precipitation is forecast in the evening hours, with temperatures hovering in the upper 30s and lower 40s during most of the storm.
Flooding could be a concern overnight Tuesday into Wednesday, said Adkins.
The Maryland State Highway Administration is preparing for the weather and will have all shops and crews fully activated to respond to any incidents caused by nasty driving conditions. Kellie Boulware, an SHA spokeswoman, said the agency is encouraging people who plan to drive in the inclement weather to "be aware and have their vehicles ready for travel."
On Wednesday, gusty winds are forecast to pick back up as cold air moves in behind the storm. Gusts up to 30 mph are expected to push wind chills into the 20s by Wednesday evening. Strong said snow showers are possible from the afternoon into the evening.
The storms are expected to clear out of the region by Thanksgiving, leaving behind cold, dry air and wind chills in the 20s for the holiday and Ravens game.
The storm is tracking up from the southeastern United States, making it slightly different than a classic Nor'easter storm that typically forms off the Carolinas and tracks up the eastern seaboard, Strong said.
The storm dumped heavy snow across the Southwest and ice in Texas, drawing up moisture from the Gulf of Mexico as it heads this way.
On Monday, freezing rain and bad weather contributed to the cancellation of 378 airline flights in the United States, most of them at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, according to FlightAware.com, which tracks delays and cancellations. And at least 13 people were killed in storm-related accidents over the weekend in Oklahoma, Texas, California, New Mexico and Arizona, according to news reports.
The storm is combining with a cold front that dropped temperatures to minus 3 degrees at Saranac Lake, N.Y., the coldest spot in the contiguous United States on Monday morning.
Other parts of the East Coast are bracing for the stormy weather. The Appalachian Mountains, West Virginia, western Pennsylvania and northern New York could get 6 to 12 inches of snow on Wednesday before the storm moves into western Maine on Thursday, weather service meteorologist Dan Petersen said.
East of the snow front, the I-95 highway corridor from Boston to New York could receive 2 to 31/2 inches of rain, he said.
Although the precipitation should clear by Thursday in most parts, the winds are expected to remain a concern in New York City. High winds could ground the giant character balloons in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. City rules bar the huge balloons from flying when sustained winds top 23 miles per hour, and gusts exceed 34 mph.
Baltimore Sun reporter Colin Campbell and Reuters contributed to this article.