Wild weekend weather means tricky Christmas travel in central U.S.

From flash flooding to severe thunderstorms to snow and ice, inclement weather will affect a large part of the central U.S. this weekend.

The National Weather Service’s map of watches, advisories and warnings across the Lower 48 reveals a host of hazards along a diagonal swath from northern Texas to Maine – coinciding with a cold front and low pressure tracking along it.

National Weather Service map showing watches, advisories and warnings in effect as Friday afternoon, 3 p.m. EST (National Weather Service)

National Weather Service map showing watches, advisories and warnings in effect as Friday afternoon, 3 p.m. EST (National Weather Service)

On the northern and western side of this swath, snow and ice are the primary threats.

The biggest snow threat runs from Saturday night to Sunday night, from northern Missouri through northern Michigan and into northern Maine. This includes Kansas City, Madison, Milwaukee, and Traverse City. Four inches or more are possible in this zone.

Chance of 4 inches or more of snow Saturday evening to Sunday evening (National Weather Service)

Chance of 4 inches or more of snow Saturday evening to Sunday evening (National Weather Service)

A significant ice storm is possible from north central Oklahoma through central Missouri into Saturday (top, below), and extending into the interior of New England Sunday (bottom, below).  This includes Oklahoma City, Springfield (Mo.), Buffalo, and Burlington.

Chance of at least 0.25" of ice Friday night to Saturday night (National Weather Service)

Chance of at least 0.25″ of ice Friday night to Saturday night (National Weather Service)

Chance of at least 0.25" of ice Saturday night to Sunday night (National Weather Service)

Chance of at least 0.25″ of ice Saturday night to Sunday night (National Weather Service)

On the south and east side of the storm, severe thunderstorms and flash flooding, respectively, are possible.

NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center (SPC) has placed a large area of the south central U.S. under an elevated risk of severe thunderstorm Saturday, affecting over 30 million people. ┬áCities that may be affected include: Memphis, Baton Rouge, Houston, Nashville, and New Orleans.

Areas under slight and moderate risks of severe thunderstorms Saturday (Storm Prediction Center)

Areas under slight and moderate risks of severe thunderstorms Saturday (Storm Prediction Center)

Much of Louisiana, eastern Arkansas and western Mississippi lie in the moderate risk zone, where there is a 45 percent chance of severe weather within 25 miles of a point.

Writes SPC: THE PROSPECT FOR WIDESPREAD DAMAGING WINDS AND TORNADOES WILL INCREASE THROUGH THE MORNING AND INTO LATE AFTERNOON/EVENING FROM EAST TX TO THE LOWER OH VALLEY AND OVER THE LA/MS DELTA REGION.

Coinciding with the northern portion of the severe weather risk zone and extending northeastward, heavy rains, capable of flooding are possible.

Rainfall potential through Monday (National Weather Service)

Rainfall potential through Monday (National Weather Service)

The National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center forecasts a large area of 3″ or more rain from northern Arkansas through western Ohio.

East of the Appalachians and south of the interior of New England, there are few weather worries aside from a shower or two Saturday into a good part of Sunday. Record-challenging warmth will be the main story until the front arrives late Sunday with showers and even thunderstorms.

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