Big weather changes are headed for the Charlotte region and much of the rest of the United States, and some of whats ahead could spell problems for people planning holiday travel.
Colder air and very windy conditions are headed for the Carolinas, but a much more significant winter storm system is expected to blast a large part of the Midwest and Great Lakes into the early part of the weekend.
Temperatures on Wednesday soared into the upper 60s in much of the Charlotte region, with an unofficial high of 67 degrees at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, about 15 degrees above the average at this time of year. But the mild weather is coming to an end.
By Thursday afternoon and evening, a strong cold front will push into the Carolinas. That front is being directed by the powerful storm system moving from the Midwest into the upper Great Lakes.
Blizzard and winter storm warnings were posted Wednesday evening from Nebraska eastward to Pennsylvania and West Virginia. People planning early holiday travel to places like Chicago, Detroit and St. Louis could encounter flight delays and cancellations Thursday and Friday.
In the Carolinas, Thursday is expected to be cloudy. Temperatures will be mild again, climbing into the lower 60s. Showers are forecast to reach Charlotte by mid to late afternoon, and breezes will increase.
The cold front could bring an outbreak of severe weather Thursday to the eastern Carolinas.
Showers will end by midnight Thursday, with partial clearing to follow. That will set the stage for much colder conditions Friday, when high temperatures will be about 20 degrees below Wednesday. Gusty northwest winds and full sunshine are expected, but highs will only reach the mid 40s.
High wind warnings and watches are posted for the mountains and foothills, and National Weather Service forecasters say winds could gust above 40 mph Friday in the Piedmont.
The northwest flow in the mountains could produce 1 to 3 inches of snow in the higher elevations late Thursday and Friday.
Weekend weather in the Carolinas is expected to be seasonably cool but quiet. High pressure will dominate, with sunny days and high temperatures in the lower 50s Saturday and Sunday. Morning lows will be in the mid to upper 20s.
More of the same is predicted for Christmas Eve.
A big storm system is expected to push from the southern Plains into the eastern United States from Christmas Day to next Thursday, with rain expected later Christmas Day and early next Wednesday in the Charlotte region.