Winter Storm Eboni Could Cause Chaos For Returning Holiday Travelers

Passengers try to catch flights out of O'Hare International Airport after an early winter snowstorm caused the delay and cancellation of hundreds of flights at the airport on November 26, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois.
Scott Olson / Getty Images

As many as 112.5 million holiday travelers in the United States could find their post-holiday travel plans threatened by Winter Storm Eboni as snow and rain sweeps across the country. People reports that wet snow and heavy winds are moving from California, across the Great Plains, and up to New England, potentially grounding planes and impacting roadways as it does.

A low-pressure system that is now known as Winter Storm Eboni started on the California-Oregon coast on Christmas Eve, bringing rain and snow to the area. Eboni dumped over a foot of snow in the Sierra mountains on Christmas Eve before moving across the southern Rockies, where it left behind snow and rain. Some areas, like Mount Rose in Nevada, saw 15 inches of snow accumulation.

Now, the storm is making its way across the West and Midwest, intensifying as it does. In parts of southern Colorado, northern Minnesota, and northern Wisconsin, the National Weather Service has issued winter storm warnings. Heavy and blowing snow and wind gusts up to 65 miles per hour are expected to make travel in these regions hazardous.

Winter weather advisories have been issued in parts of the Rockies, upper Midwest, and northern Plains as well, and forecasters predict these areas could get at least 6 inches of snow.

In the Dakotas on Wednesday and Thursday, people can expect to see blizzard-like conditions that could bring more than a foot of snow in some areas. The heavy winds could also create snow drifts that could make travel even more difficult.

By Friday, the wind-driven snow is expected to continue slamming the Great Lakes as it moves into New England, where residents could see sleet, snow, and freezing rain. In northern states like Maine and New Hampshire, there could be at least 6 inches of snow accumulation, while southern New England likely won’t see any accumulation.

People in southern states aren’t home free. About 13 million people in Texas, southwestern Arkansas, and western Louisiana will experience winds, thunderstorms, hail, and tornadoes through Wednesday evening. Some areas may even see flooding as 4 inches of rain pummels the Gulf Coast through Friday.

All this comes as holiday travel is up 4.4 percent for 2018. That’s a record increase. That means that about 102 million people will be driving as part of their holiday plans, with another 6.7 million expected to be flying to their destinations. The rest will travel by bus, train, or boat.

Eboni was expected to turn into a winter storm, defined as a storm that impacts 400,000 square kilometers or more, by the end of the week. But the storm turned out to be more intense than expected, reaching that marker by Tuesday afternoon.