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Southern US storm threatening travel disruptions as it unleashes heavy rain, wet snow

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A storm tracking through the southern United States will pack heavy rain that will hinder post-Thanksgiving travel and could trigger urban flooding in Houston, Atlanta and New Orleans, AccuWeather meteorologists say. The same storm will also unleash months’ worth of snow on the higher elevations of New Mexico and western Texas into the Thanksgiving weekend.

Rain will be the most widespread inhibiting factor for travel in the region. Thunderstorms are likely to be heavy and gusty at the local level, but any severe weather is likely to be isolated. The bulk of the rain from the complex storm system will come in two primary rounds for most areas with a break of dry weather that lasts about 24 hours in between.

A broad area of 2- to 4-inch rain is in store from central Texas to southern Mississippi and the Florida Panhandle through Saturday, with an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 12 inches most likely to fall in southeastern Texas and/or southwestern Louisiana. Additional rain will fall farther to the east during the latter part of the weekend with a general 1-2 inches in parts of Georgia and the Carolinas.

After the first round of rain made for a soggy Thanksgiving day from eastern Texas to the lower Mississippi River Valley, rain and thunder will push eastward into much of the Southeast on Friday, potentially hindering the start of post-holiday travel.


However, before the first batch of rain and thunderstorms moves off the Atlantic coast, the next round associated with the main storm will gather moisture over the southern Plains on Friday. More rain will develop over central and eastern Texas at the end of the week, but an area of snow will broaden over western Texas and eastern and central New Mexico into Friday.

The heaviest snow is likely to fall along the Texas and New Mexico border through parts of southeastern New Mexico into early Saturday.

Parts of this region average less than 10 inches of snow per year, so receiving 6-12 inches of snow all from a single storm can be significant.

A bit of snow cannot be ruled out around El Paso, Texas, and the surrounding hills. El Paso averages just 2.8 inches of snow per year.

Motorists should be prepared for slippery travel along interstates 10, 20 and 40, as well as U.S. Route 283 in western Texas. In New Mexico, wintry travel is likely over portions of Route 283, I-25 and I-40. Road conditions will range from wet to slushy to even snow covered in some areas.

As this main part of the storm rolls northeastward from Friday into Saturday, a new batch of rain will move slowly along. While the intensity of this rain will vary from location to location in the Southern states, a new round of poor visibility and ponding on the highways is likely to occur along the interstate 10, 20 and 40 corridors.

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

Prior to expanding into the Northeast, the drenching rain will pivot through the rest of Georgia and the Carolinas on Sunday. Most areas from Mississippi and western Tennessee on west to Oklahoma and Texas are likely to be dry with a return of some sunshine on Sunday. Clearing from west to east is also likely in the Southeast states, but this may take until Sunday evening to reach the I-95 corridor.

Following unsettled conditions with showers and thunderstorms this past week, much of the Florida Peninsula may avoid the bulk of the rain from the storm system from Friday through Sunday, which is good news for post-hurricane cleanup operations as well as those vacationing over the Thanksgiving holiday. But, since the storm will be hitting northern areas to close out the weekend, rain and poor visibility may lead to flight delays at destination points, especially in the Northeast.

Aside from the risk of travel disruptions from the double-barreled storm, its rain and snow will result in another chip out of the long-term drought in much of the region. Enough rain may fall to bring another slight to moderate surge in water levels on the lower portion of the Mississippi River. Very low water levels since the midsummer have been hindering barge operations on the waterway.

Since cold Canadian air will not follow the storm, where sunshine returns, temperatures will rebound to near- to above-average levels for late November from Sunday to Tuesday. This warmup may help to fuel thunderstorms and the potential for severe weather as the next storm system crosses the Central states on Tuesday and Wednesday.

AccuWeather meteorologists have already begun to raise 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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