Winter starts Wednesday with the shortest day of the year. But the weather will be fairly tranquil for the Winter Solstice and much milder over most of the country.
But as that milder air moves over the colder air in the upper Midwest, it could produce some snow and freezing rain. About 3 inches of snow is expected along the northern U.S. border.
Expect pretty good travel weather over the rest of the country for Thursday and Friday also.
Trouble begins this weekend as a strong Pacific storm, currently near Japan, develops a western U.S. winter storm on Saturday. The storm ejects into the northern Plains on Christmas Eve with a powerful surface low. This will bring strong winds and blowing snow, possible blizzard conditions, to the front range of the Rockies and into the High Plains.
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Further east, it will be a risk of freezing rain as the warmer air overruns the colder air. As the low strengthens and moves east, it will bring warmer, moist air up through the Mississippi Valley.
This could produce a large area of rain, not snow, in the Midwest and further south into the Mississippi Valley and Southern Plains.
Closer to the Gulf Coast, there could be enough moisture available for thunderstorms, possibly severe. Most likely areas impacted would be eastern Oklahoma, eastern Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana.
The warmth on the eastern side of this storm will warm up the East Coast from Florida northward. Places like New York City and Washington, D.C., could have Christmas morning lows above freezing.