Claremore Daily Progress

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December 20, 2013

Foul weather threatens to snarl US holiday travel

ST. LOUIS —

Holiday travelers in the Midwest and parts East and South were keeping a leery eye Friday on a band of foul weather stretching across the nation’s midsection that was threatening to mar the opening weekend of one of the year’s busiest travel periods.

Forecasters were predicting a stew of foul weekend weather, from freezing rain and snow in the north to torrential rain in the Ohio Valley and Appalachia and possibly even tornadoes in the South.

The worst of the storm wasn’t expected to hit Midwest population centers until Saturday, and although few flights had been cancelled as of midday Friday, the weather was taking a toll on air travel: FlightStats.com reported more than 1,900 U.S. delays, with the most at Chicago’s O’Hare, Denver International, and the three big New York-area airports.

The foul weather could cause headaches for the estimated 94.5 million Americans planning to travel by road or air during this holiday season, which runs from Saturday through New Year’s Day. Concerns were similar a month ago, when a winter storm hit just as people were traveling for Thanksgiving.

Tom Griffith, a financial planner from suburban Little Rock, Ark., moved up his departure time for a two-day road trip to Cincinnati so he could get ahead of bad weather.

“The TV said severe weather would impact southeast Arkansas up to Memphis in the afternoon. My plan is to be past Memphis before noon,” Griffith said Friday. “I guess my biggest concern would be the wind with the semis on the interstates.”

While much of the East awoke to unusually warm temperatures on Friday, New England appeared to be next in the storm front’s crosshairs, creating pre-Christmas travel worries from Chicago and Detroit to Boston and New York.

Temperatures that hovered in the 60s in some parts of the Midwest on Thursday plummeted overnight, and freezing rain Friday morning snarled traffic and forced some school closures in Michigan and Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation said Interstate 90/94 was ice-covered from Tomah and Mauston. The state was bracing for significant snow, sleet and ice.

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