Christmas holiday travel disruptions may unfold for central, eastern US

As frigid air plunges into and builds over the central United States, a stormy pattern with snow, ice and rain may unfold from Texas to Maine for Christmas holiday travelers.

During a typical winter, this weather pattern can bring a storm and travel concerns once every five to seven days.

However, with the pattern anticipated from Dec. 21 to Dec. 26, there is the potential for two storms that may be disruptive to travel in areas from the Rockies and southern Plains to the Midwest and Northeast states.

"The key to which areas stand the best chance of snow and/or ice will depend on how far to the south and east frigid air pushes out from the North Central states," according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.

The first storm and its snow will primarily be a concern from the northern Rockies to the Upper Midwest later this week.

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Severe weather in the US 2017 -- tornadoes, snowstorms, flooding, hail
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Severe weather in the US 2017 -- tornadoes, snowstorms, flooding, hail
Abdel Salah, the owner of Sam's Food and Liquor Store surveys damage after a series of tornados tore through in New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S., February 8, 2017. REUTERS/Ben Depp
Heavy thunderstorm clouds fill the sky over Center City Philadelphia, PA, on Feb. 25, 2017. (Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Residents clear their cars and street of snow in Weehawken, New Jersey, as the One World Trade Center and lower Manhattan are seen after a snowstorm in New York, U.S. March 14, 2017. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
PERRYVILLE, MO - MARCH 01: A utility pole was downed during last night's tornado on March 1, 2017 in Perryville, Missouri. At least one person was killed when the tornado crossed interstate 55. (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
Birds sit on some branches in Central Park in New York on March 14, 2017. Winter Storm Stella dumped sleet and snow across the northeastern United States on Tuesday but spared New York from the worst after authorities cancelled thousands of flights and shut schools. Blizzard warnings were in effect in parts of Connecticut, Massachusetts and upstate New York, but were lifted for New York City, the US financial capital home to 8.4 million residents, where snow turned to sleet, hail and rain. / AFP PHOTO / Eric BARADAT (Photo credit should read ERIC BARADAT/AFP/Getty Images)
PERRYVILLE, MO - MARCH 01: A house along Pcr 906 is destroyed after last night's tornado on March 1, 2017 in Perryville, Missouri. At least one person was killed when the tornado crossed interstate 55. (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
Heavy thunderstorm clouds fill the sky over Center City Philadelphia, PA, on Feb. 25, 2017. (Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
PERRYVILLE, MO - MARCH 01: A shed for farm equipment on Pcr 906 collapsed and metal sheeting was tangled in trees after last night's tornado, on March 1, 2017 in Perryville, Missouri. At least one person was killed when the tornado crossed interstate 55. (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
PERRYVILLE, MO - MARCH 01: A house and garage were destroyed on Hwy V after last night's tornado on March 1, 2017 in Perryville, Missouri. At least one person was killed when the tornado crossed interstate 55. (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
A resident clears the street of snow in Weehawken, New Jersey, as the Empire State Building and Middle Manhattan are seen after a snowstorm in New York, U.S. March 14, 2017. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
Debris covers a street in New Orleans East after a series of tornados tore through New Orleans and other parts of Louisiana, leaving trees, power lines and homes and businesses leveled, in New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S., February 8, 2017. REUTERS/Ben Depp
Tien Nguyen cleans up debris in "Q" Nail studio on Chef Menteur highway which he and his wife own, they survived the tornado by sheltering in the bathroom, a tornados tore through New Orleans and other parts of Louisiana, leaving trees, power lines and homes and businesses leveled, in New Orleans, Louisiana, February 8, 2017. REUTERS/Ben Depp
Two snowmen sit in Central Park in New York on March 14, 2017. Winter Storm Stella dumped sleet and snow across the northeastern United States on Tuesday but spared New York from the worst after authorities cancelled thousands of flights and shut schools. Blizzard warnings were in effect in parts of Connecticut, Massachusetts and upstate New York, but were lifted for New York City, the US financial capital home to 8.4 million residents, where snow turned to sleet, hail and rain. / AFP PHOTO / Jewel SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
Trailers lie on their sides behind a Procter and Gamble warehouse after a tornado ripped through the area on Sunday in Albany, Georgia, U.S. January 24, 2017. REUTERS/Tami Chappell
A snowplow clears snow in Times Square during a snowstorm in the Manhattan borough of New York, U.S. March 14, 2017. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
A gas sign from a gas station sits in a tree nearby after a tornado ripped through the area on Sunday in Albany, Georgia, U.S. January 24, 2017. REUTERS/Tami Chappell
Friends used there snow day to go sledding on a hill at 47th street northwest and Massachusetts Avenue in Washington on March 14, 2017. Winter Storm Stella dumped sleet and snow across the northeastern United States on Tuesday but spared New York from the worst after authorities cancelled thousands of flights and shut schools. Blizzard warnings were in effect in parts of Connecticut, Massachusetts and upstate New York, but were lifted for New York City, the US financial capital home to 8.4 million residents, where snow turned to sleet, hail and rain. / AFP PHOTO / Tasos Katopodis (Photo credit should read TASOS KATOPODIS/AFP/Getty Images)
A police car pushes a cab stuck on a snow and sleet-covered street in New York on March 14, 2017. Winter Storm Stella dumped sleet and snow across the northeastern United States on Tuesday but spared New York from the worst after authorities cancelled thousands of flights and shut schools. Blizzard warnings were in effect in parts of Connecticut, Massachusetts and upstate New York, but were lifted for New York City, the US financial capital home to 8.4 million residents, where snow turned to sleet, hail and rain. / AFP PHOTO / Jewel SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
The Rustic Barn, an event hall, which suffered major tornado damage, is seen from an unmanned aerial vehicle in Canton, Texas, April 30, 2017. REUTERS/Brandon Wade TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Homeowners clean up debris after a tornado hit the town of Emory, Texas, U.S. April 30, 2017. REUTERS/Brandon Wade
Homes are severely damaged after a tornado hit the town of Emory, Texas, U.S. April 30, 2017. REUTERS/Brandon Wade
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In the wake of this storm, colder air may settle from parts of the southern Plains to part of the Ohio Valley on Saturday, Dec. 23. Meanwhile, most areas along the Atlantic Seaboard can expect above-normal temperatures for late in the week.

Since cold air will not be established in time for the arrival of precipitation in the East, most travelers in the Northeast will likely have to deal with delays associated with rain, fog and a low cloud ceiling around Saturday, Dec. 23. Some pockets of ice and snow are possible over parts of the northern Appalachians.

"We have concerns for a second storm to spring up in the south between Dec. 24 and Christmas Day," Doll said.

How quickly the cold and the next storm move eastward will determine which areas might get snow and ice.

One scenario brings the cold air eastward with the storm riding along the Northeast coast on Christmas Day. This would keep it generally dry across the Upper Midwest with areas of lake-effect snow. Snow and ice may be a concern for the Northeast.

The second scenario has the storm and cold air moving eastward even more quickly. Should this be the case, the Midwest and Northeast would trend drier and colder, aside from traditional bands of lake-effect snow.

In this scenario, some snow and ice may make another visit to parts of the Deep South on Christmas Eve as the storm quickly passes through.

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Farther ahead, toward the days surrounding New Year's Day, the same issues with the spread of cold air versus frequency of storms will continue.

Meanwhile, the magnitude of the cold air forecast to settle over the Central states may pose a problem for travelers.

Motorists venturing anywhere in the swath from the interior Northwest to the central and northern Plains should make sure their vehicle can handle severe cold weather and they have packed blankets and warm clothes.

Most of the storms with precipitation will bypass coastal areas of California. However, trouble with periodic strong winds fanning the flames of existing wildfires will likely continue into the start of 2018.

AccuWeather will continue to provide updates on the potentially hazardous travel weather pattern in the coming days.

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