There will be larger numbers of people traveling for the Christmas holiday next week and many of them will be traveling greater distances to celebrate. Many of them also will be battling severe winter weather leading up to Christmas, which may slow down the commute and keep roadside services busy.
A snowstorm that is expect to race across the country this weekend could drop as much as eight inches of snow locally by Sunday night and bring freezing rain and drizzle in the southern part of Michigan. Dry weather will follow early in the week, before more snow settles in Christmas Day. National Weather Service meteorologist Keith Berger said because there is not a defined path of the approaching storm it is hard to predict how much snow will fall in Northeast Michigan. He said areas around Lake Huron could get more than communities further inland.
"There is a lot of uncertainty right now," Berger said. "Once the storm track is set we'll be able to get a better idea of the possible accumulation amounts and issue any warnings or advisories if needed. It will create a mess though leading up to the holiday."
Berger said the bad weather will begin to break Monday, and Tuesday should provide some sunshine and dry conditions for travelers. He said another system will move in on Christmas Day bringing snow and wind. He said it is too soon to predict how much snow will fall.
"It will be fast moving clipper system and we'll know more as the track becomes more defined," Berger said. "There has been a lot of volatility and Arctic pressure and it is creating an unstable, stormy situation."
According to AAA Branch Manager Karen Foco there will be 50 million people traveling more than 50 miles this Christmas, which is a 4 percent increase from 2012. She said the cost of gas is about 20 cents lower than last year.
Foco said the weather will make travel more bothersome this year, but that people will anyway. She said if driving it is important to be sure you have items in your vehicle that can help if you get stuck in deep snow and frigid cold.
"You will want to have a shovel, blankets, hats gloves, as well as a full tank of gas and fully charged cell phone," Foco said. "Make sure you don't speed and drive with extra caution and at a reduced speed when on snow and ice. There will be more travelers, but there will also be more requests for roads services as well."
The winter storms also could impact travelers and airports over a large section of the country. Foco said it is expensive to fly this Christmas, but many are choosing to pay the premium.
"It is costly, but the airports are completely packed," Foco said. "From what I have been hearing they are already wall-to-wall people. There may be some delays due to the weather, so people should expect that that is a possibility."
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review ... at www.thealpenanews.com.