Winter storm moves east, bringing flood threat to Northeast as travelers head home from holiday

Washington, DC, Philadelphia and New York City all face a Level 1 of 4 flood threat from the heavy rain.

ByNouran Salahieh and Mary Gilbert, CNN, CNNWire
Wednesday, December 27, 2023
Winter storm moves east, causing dangerous travel conditions across central US
Washington, DC, Philadelphia and New York City all face a Level 1 of 4 flood threat from the heavy rain

PHILADELPHIA -- Parts of the eastern US will face tricky holiday travel after avoiding deadly blizzard conditions and ice that slammed the central US earlier this week.

A batch of steady rain will move across the mid-Atlantic through Wednesday afternoon and push into the Northeast by Wednesday evening. This rainfall could become heavy at times, especially late Wednesday and Wednesday night.

Washington, DC, Philadelphia and New York City all face a Level 1 of 4 flood threat from the heavy rain.

Ponding on roadways could slow travel on the ground and reduced visibility may lead to flight delays.

Wednesday's travel weather hazards come after a blizzard-fueling winter storm swept across the Plains and upper Midwest with heavy snow, freezing rain and strong winds, creating dangerous travel in the busy holiday week.

Light-to-moderate snow as well as rain and freezing rain could fall over parts of the region Wednesday, but will largely wrap up by the end of the day. A few rain and snow showers will then track through portions of the Great Lakes on Thursday.

The storm's worst happened on Monday and Tuesday, when snow combined with strong wind gusts - sometimes 50 to 60 mph, with isolated gusts up to 75 mph - to hit parts of Nebraska, South Dakota, Kansas, Colorado and Wyoming. Blizzards occur when blowing snow and sustained strong winds combine for at least three hours and reduce visibility to a quarter-mile or less.

In Kansas, snow and ice contributed to a deadly crash early Monday evening in Pawnee County when a driver of a pickup truck lost control and struck a car head-on driven by 86-year-old Evelyn D. Reece. Reece was killed in the Christmas Day crash, according to Kansas Highway Patrol. The driver of the pickup truck was injured, as well as two others riding in the vehicle with Reece.

Cars also collided and slid off roads Monday in Nebraska, where tractor-trailers jackknifed and got stuck on eastbound Interstate 80 near York in the morning and early afternoon, the Nebraska State Patrol said. Troopers with the Nebraska State Patrol said they responded to about 150 weather-related incidents on Christmas Day, according to a news release.

RELATED: Major winter storm brings blizzard conditions, making travel dangerous during busy holiday

Low visibility levels also shut down major roadways that lingered into Wednesday morning.

Westbound Interstate 80 and Highway 30 were closed from Kearney, in the middle of Nebraska, to the Wyoming state line, a stretch of about 270 miles, according to the state Department of Transportation. Eastbound travel on the highways was closed from Wyoming to North Platte, Nebraska, about 179 miles, according to the transportation department and state police.

One traveler, Bradley Sanders, told CNN he was driving from Denver to Chicago on Tuesday when the blizzard hit, so he pulled over near Ogallala, Nebraska, to charge his car around noon. Soon after, he learned the highway was shut down, so he booked a motel for the night. He said there was a line of stranded drivers at the motel looking for a room.

Amanda Dawn Benitez was also stuck in Ogallala, she told CNN on Tuesday. She was traveling from Twin Falls, Idaho, to McDonough, Georgia, with her husband, son and 2-pound chihuahua. Her husband is a truck driver, so they've been making the trek in his 18-wheeler, where they plan to spend Tuesday night. Benitez, who is from Alabama, said she's never experienced so much snow in her life.

"I said I wanted a white Christmas, but I didn't want a blizzard," she said. Benitez said her son and chihuahua played in the snow and enjoyed it.

Residents in 14 North Dakota counties were advised to avoid all travel Tuesday because of poor winter road conditions, the state's Department of Transportation announced. Westbound lanes of about 50 miles of Interstate 94 in the state were closed Tuesday morning due to "multiple traffic incidents."

In South Dakota, I-90 was closed in both directions from Monday night through Tuesday morning for a more than 200-mile stretch between Mitchell and Wall, the South Dakota Department of Transportation said.

Parts of South Dakota were hit with a foot or more of snow, including 13.8 inches in Gregory and 12 inches in Deadwood and Spearfish, according to the the National Weather Service. Aurora, Colorado, received 7.5 inches of snow, and Norfolk, Nebraska, got 7 inches, the service said.

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