Independence Day weekend is one of the busiest travel periods of the year. AAA is predicting that an estimated 48 million people will travel for holiday weekend festivities, and the weather will play a crucial role in shaping outdoor plans.
An equally dominant headline is the extreme drought gripping the West, with parched vegetation and copious dried-out fuels rendering half the Lower 48 a virtual tinderbox. Wildfire incidence has historically doubled around Independence Day because of fireworks, and officials are urging people to avoid setting off fireworks in vulnerable areas.
Through Sunday morning, downpours, gusty winds and choppy surf from Tropical Storm Colin may spoil beach plans along the coast of the Carolinas.
Here we break down your region-by-region holiday weekend forecast.
The big story for the western United States will be fire danger — both natural and due to mishandling of fireworks or outdoor fires while camping. That’s thanks to a years-long drought that shows no sign of lessening in coverage or intensity in the near future. Nearly two-fifths of the West is experiencing a severe or top-tier exceptional drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
“Reservoir levels are extremely low; hydropower production is limited, alternative power is expensive; groundwater decreases; water allotments to farmers and ranchers are curtailed,” wrote the agency when discussing drought impacts.
Nevada and California are suffering the most at present, and unfortunately no rain is in the cards for them through the holiday weekend or into next week. But isolated to scattered thunderstorms are possible over New Mexico and Colorado from Saturday through Monday, thanks to moisture from the southwest monsoon.
While some areas could wind up with some desperately needed rainfall, flooding may accompany a few of the heaviest downpours. Elsewhere, lightning strikes emanating from “dry thunderstorms” could spark a few new fires from the Southwest to as far north as Oregon.
The drought and presence of dry fuels is especially problematic in a setting where fireworks are set off.
“This holiday weekend, wildland firefighters need your help to prevent wildfire,” wrote the National Interagency Fire Center. “Remember that fireworks have no place in our wildlands. Check for local fire restrictions before heading out this weekend and abide by them. Remember to never leave your campfire unattended, properly dispose of barbecue charcoal, use equipment safely and prevent malfunctions, and keep vehicles off of dry grass.”
From Pennsylvania to Maine, multiple batches of showers and thunderstorms will work north and east at the start of the weekend. Saturday will begin wet in western New England, Pennsylvania and New York state. A gap should exist in central New England, but more storms will pepper the map during the morning over Long Island, coastal Connecticut, the cape and the islands.
Then the atmosphere should reset, with Saturday afternoon temperatures in the 80s in Pennsylvania and New York. Northern and western New England will be in the 70s behind a front sagging south and east. That front will trigger strong thunderstorms along the Interstate 95 corridor during the late afternoon and evening, with cities such as Boston, Providence, Hartford, New York and Newark all potentially affected.
Most folks wind up in the comparatively cooler, refreshing air mass behind the front by Sunday morning, with resplendent sunshine and highs in the 70s and lower 80s for most north of the Mason-Dixon Line. The exception will be in central and southern New Jersey, where a few patches of light drizzle or morning cloud cover can be expected.
Independence Day should be nice, with 70s and 80s southeast. A few showers may work in late in the day over northern portions of the Champlain Valley and east of the St. Lawrence River.
On Saturday, the same front will bring numerous thunderstorms, with heavy downpours and perhaps strong to locally damaging winds, through Western Maryland, Washington and Virginia during the afternoon. There is a level 2 out of 5 risk for severe weather for Washington, Baltimore and Philadelphia. The Nation’s Capital is also under a flood watch.
Sunday will feature a low-end thunderstorm chance in extreme southern Virginia, but Monday looks sunny and dry.
Temperatures each day will be in the upper 80s to lower 90s.
Southeast and South
Tropical Storm Colin could bring some gusty winds and heavy downpours along portions of the South and North Carolina coasts through Sunday morning
Elsewhere, a few pop-up afternoon thunderstorms also could be in the offing Saturday along the spine of the Appalachians, with more Sunday in the Carolinas and Florida. Monday should be comparatively quiet. Very isolated thunderstorms could occur in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana any day depending on how and where the sea breeze sets up.
Saturday’s highs will peak in the mid-90s in the Carolina coastal plain and in Georgia. Lower 90s will occupy the rest of the South. Sunday will be similar, and highs will be a degree or two warmer on Monday, the Fourth.
It won't be a total washout, but there will be showers and thunderstorms at times for the July 4th weekend. The most widespread precipitation will occur Saturday morning with mainly isolated to scattered afternoon showers and storms Friday, Sunday, and Monday. pic.twitter.com/zipOhgpVKQ— NWS Kansas City (@NWSKansasCity) July 1, 2022
Across the central and northern Plains and the Midwest, “ridge runners,” or windy thunderstorms that ride up and over a high pressure “heat dome,” will be possible each day. The ridge of high pressure is anchored over the Mississippi Valley.
North of the heat dome — in Nebraska, the Dakotas, the Upper Midwest and the Corn Belt — temperatures will be in the 80s. Across Texas and Oklahoma, expect mid- to upper 90s with a few triple-digit temperatures thrown in.
On Saturday, strong thunderstorms may eye Kansas City and Des Moines along Interstate 35. Sunday evening could have a few severe thunderstorm lines with damaging winds rolling across the northern Plains. For Monday, only isolated thunderstorms are expected, primarily shedding off the Rockies over the High Plains.
Alaska and Hawaii
Over Alaska, rain showers are probable over southwestern areas through Saturday before becoming more spotty on Sunday and largely dissipating by Monday. Clouds and rain in this zone will keep temperatures slightly below normal, mainly in the 50s and 60s.
Fire Weather Watches for the Interior have upgraded to Red Flag Warnings, which are in effect starting tomorrow afternoon. Scattered thunderstorms expected & due to lack of moisture and very dry fuels, new fire starts are possible. Those with outdoor plans should remain vigilant pic.twitter.com/PVglzPbJKG— NWS Fairbanks (@NWSFairbanks) July 1, 2022
Over much of central and eastern Alaska, it will be very warm and largely dry through Monday, except for some pop-up showers and thunderstorms in the afternoon and evening. Temperatures here will be as much as 5 to 30 degrees warmer-than-average, in the 70s and 80s — and perhaps approaching 90 in a few spots Saturday and Sunday. Much of central and eastern Alaska is under a red flag warning through Saturday for a high fire danger, as lightning from storms combined with dry, windy conditions could ignite new, fast-moving blazes.
In Hawaii, fairly typical summer weather is expected with warm conditions, gusty trade winds and the chance of passing showers through the holiday weekend.