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Elwell: How will the weather affect holiday travel?

Published: Monday, December 18, 2017 @ 11:56 AM
By: Eric Elwell

There is nothing that can ruin a holiday more than when some sort of natural event causes havoc in one’s travel plans.

Just this past weekend, an apparent underground fire at one of Georgia Power and Light’s electrical substations shut down the world’s busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta. This left thousands of passengers stranded and is expected to impact flights for days as airlines try to get caught up. Needless to say, the timing almost couldn’t have been worse with many already trying to travel for the holidays.

READ MORE: Colder, snowier winter likely in 2017

So, what could be worse? How about a major storm on the weekend before Christmas? It is certainly seeming like it could be possible. Most of the long-range computer models have been forecasting arctic air to return to the eastern half of the country as we head into the holiday weekend. Just how far south and east the cold air will get is still somewhat in question. However, it is clear that the surge of cold air along with an increasingly active storm track across the southern United States will be more than enough to fuel one or more large storm systems.

Just what that means for the weather here in the Miami Valley is still trying to be determined. Models have flip-flopped back and forth on the idea of rain to end this week with a transition over to snow sometime around or just after Christmas. It is a very complicated forecast and one that could have a major impact on travel. The storm system developing to end this week will likely spread rain from Texas into New England. Arctic air attempting to intrude in from the northwest will likely cause precipitation to change over to either an icy mix or snow on the back edge of the precipitation shield. Where exactly that transition sets up is still somewhat unclear.

READ MORE: How will LaNina affect winter in the Miami Valley?

If you do have big – or even small travel plans in or around Christmas, be sure you keep up-to-date with the latest forecast. It is likely one or multiple storm systems will cause some issues throughout the Christmas weekend and week after. Be sure if you are traveling by car that you have a winter safety kit with extra blankets, non-perishable food and some bottled water. Of course, have a car charger for your phone and let friends and family know when and where you are traveling. Also remember, the Storm Center 7 weather team will be updating the forecasts multiple times a day on the WHIO Weather App to keep you ahead of any storm. You can also program any travel city in the US into the App so that you can get up-to-date forecasts and weather alerts for wherever you go.

Most of all, have a safe, fun, and joyous Christmas and New Year. If you have ideas, questions or suggestions for weather related stories in 2018, please email them to me or visit my Facebook and Twitter pages and let me know!

Eric Elwell is WHIO StormCenter 7 Chief Meteorologist. Contact him at or follow him on Facebook and Twitter.