When we think of Christmas traditions, treasured time with family and friends usually comes to mind.
But there’s one annual tradition no one looks forward to: long hours spent on the road or in the air as you travel to visit loved ones for the holidays.
This year, forecasters are warning to plan for delays and interruptions, as the country is bracing for big winter storms during some of the year’s busiest travel days.
Travelers in the East and South can expect heavy rain that will delay flights and snarl traffic across huge swaths of the country. Yes, it will be a wet Christmas - not a white one - as temperatures are expected to keep warm.
The storm could be at its worst on Thursday, December 20, which AAA has already predicted to be the year’s busiest travel day as more than 100 million Americans head for their holiday destinations.
The auto club warns the country’s roads and airports will start getting crowded on Wednesday, as early birds try to beat the rush, and that travel times in major cities could triple because of the congestion.
Major interstates, including the I-55, I-75, I-95, I-40 and I-70, are all expected to face slow and dangerous conditions as the rainstorms arrive.
Meteorologists from AccuWeather say the heavy rainfall will also bring a risk of flooding to the Southeast toward the end of the week, while the Northwest will gets its own storm, with rain and snow expected to last into the weekend.
Plus, especially bad conditions for visibility and fog are predicted to delay air traffic even more.
While Mid and Southwest states should see dry, mild weather, anyone flying to the coasts can expect to wait as airports in several major hubs will probably be backed up.
Atlanta’s airport has already warned to expect delays on Thursday and Friday, and a slew of other cities in the East and Southeast can expect the same.
And although the stormy weather should move on from the East Coast by the weekend, a conga line of storms drifting over the Pacific Ocean will hit the country one after the other, bringing more and more rain right up to Christmas.
Here’s another unfortunate side effect of those travel delays: delivery services like FedEx, UPS, the USPS, and Amazon could see delays as the Christmas rush combines with weather delays.
Major shippers warn that Christmas packages should be in the mail no later than Friday if you want them to reach their destination by Christmas Eve. If you’ve waited this long to mail a Christmas gift, paying extra for a rush service like Priority Mail Express would also be a smart investment.
Along with the upsetting travel forecast, we have one more bit of bad news: temperatures are predicted to stay above-average right up until Christmas, meaning chances of waking up to a white Christmas are slim everywhere but select parts of the Midwest and Northeast.