Southern US storm to trigger travel disruptions from rain, ‘snow worth the season’

A storm sweeping through the southern United States will bring heavy rain that could hamper travel after Thanksgiving and trigger flooding in Houston, Atlanta and New Orleans, forecasters at AccuWeather say. The same storm will also unleash snow in parts of New Mexico and western Texas for many months leading up to Thanksgiving weekend.

Rain will be the most common disincentive to travel in the region. Thunderstorms are likely to be violent and gusty at a local level, but each severe storm is likely to be isolated. Most of the rain from the complex storm system will fall in two main laps in most areas, with a dry break lasting about 24 hours in between.

A broad area of ​​2 to 4 inches of rain is expected from central Texas to southern Mississippi and the Florida Panhandle through Saturday, with an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 12 inches most likely to occur in southeast Texas and/or southwest Louisiana. Additional rain will fall further east during the second half of the weekend, with a general 1-2 inches in parts of Georgia and the Carolinas.

The first round of rain and embedded thunderstorms swung from the lower Rio Grande River to the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers as early as Thanksgiving Day.

This amount of rain will most likely bring localized torrential downpours and flooding in parts of east Texas, Louisiana, southern Arkansas and central Mississippi through early Friday. Motorists should be prepared for road and highway flooding in cities like Houston and New Orleans and Shreveport, Louisiana.

Rain and thunder will then push east at a steady clip, reaching the southern Appalachian Mountains and Atlanta area on Friday morning, then the coastal areas of the northeastern Gulf of Mexico and the Carolinas later on Friday afternoon and evening.

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But before the first rains and thunderstorms move away from the Atlantic seaboard, the next round associated with the main storm Thursday evening and Friday will gather moisture over the southern plains. More rain will develop over central and east Texas by the end of the week, but a patch of snow will spread over west Texas and east and central New Mexico by Friday.

The heaviest snow is likely to fall through much of eastern New Mexico along the Texas-New Mexico border from Thursday night through early Saturday.

“Roswell, New Mexico, which averages 9.6 inches of snow annually, could get an entire season of snow from this single storm,” said Dan Pydynowski, AccuWeather’s chief weather forecaster. While Lubbock, Texas typically gets about 7 inches of snow annually, the expected few inches could account for up to half of the seasonal average.

Some snow is likely to fall on the heights around Albuquerque, New Mexico, and around El Paso, Texas, and the surrounding hills cannot be ruled out.

Drivers should expect slippery rides along Interstates 10, 20 and 40 and US Route 283 in western Texas. In New Mexico, winter travel is likely to be via portions of Route 283, I-25, and I-40.

As this main part of the storm rolls northeast, a new rainfall will slowly move along. While the intensity of this rain will vary from location to location in the Southern states, it is likely that another round of poor visibility and highway congestion will occur along the Interstate 10, 20 and 40 corridors.

Downpours and thunderstorms will shift from east Texas and Oklahoma to Louisiana and Arkansas to Mississippi, Florida Panhandle, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky and western Georgia Saturday night.

Before expanding into the Northeast, the soggy rain will pan through the rest of Georgia and the Carolinas on Sunday. Most areas from Mississippi and western Tennessee west to Oklahoma and Texas will likely be dry with some sunshine returning on Sunday. A west-to-east clearance is also likely in the southeastern states, but this may take until Sunday night to reach the I-95 corridor.

After last week’s unsettled conditions that included showers and thunderstorms, much of the Florida Peninsula is able to avoid most of the rain from the storm system Friday through Sunday, which is good news for post-hurricane cleanups as well as those vacationing over Thanksgiving Holidays. However, with the storm set to hit northern areas by the end of the weekend, rain and poor visibility could cause flight delays at destinations, particularly in the Northeast.

Aside from the risk of travel disruptions from the twin storms, rain and snow will bring another break to the long-term drought across much of the region. Enough rain may fall to cause another slight to moderate rise in water levels in the lower Mississippi. Very low water levels since midsummer have hampered inland waterway operations on the waterway.

As the cold Canadian air will not follow the storm where the sun returns, temperatures will soar to near above average levels Sunday through Tuesday for late November. That warming may help fuel thunderstorms and the potential for severe weather as the next storm system traverses the central states on Tuesday and Wednesday.

AccuWeather meteorologists have already begun raising awareness of the severe weather risk more than a week in advance and will provide updates on the potential in the coming days.

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