Strong and steady rain could complicate the plans of Thanksgiving travelers and Black Friday shoppers as an enormous storm is expected to sweep across much of the southern U.S. starting Thursday night.
Parts of Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas were already blanketed with rain by Thursday afternoon and another round of showers is anticipated Friday, forecasters say.
The massive system is also expected to bring snow to eastern New Mexico and western Texas.
The dayslong storm is being driven by a ball of low pressure that settled over southeastern New Mexico after passing through the Rocky Mountains, National Weather Service meteorologist Marc Chenard told USA TODAY.
“As the system dove south and east across the Rockies that’s when it kind of intensified,” Chenard said.
Usually, similar weather systems move with the jet streams and travel quickly from west to east across the country, Chenard said. But this system “separated from the northern stream” and “because it was no longer connected with that westerly flow it slowed down and kind of closed off and became this closed low that we’re seeing.”
As a result, parts of New Mexico and Texas could see four to eight inches of snow Thursday night, the National Weather Service said.
The more isolated snowy precipitation is a relatively extreme event for the region, Chenard said.
“This is a pretty heavy snow for southeast New Mexico, some areas could be approaching November records with this system,” he said.
The weather service on Thursday morning warned travelers in New Mexico and Texas, saying on Twitter, “Be sure to plan ahead if traveling as roads, and especially bridges and overpasses, will likely become slick and hazardous.”
Further east, travelers and holiday shoppers have been warned delays could unfold due to flooding from rain.
From Thursday through Sunday, an area stretching across the entire southeast could get four to six inches of rain, with the rainiest spots possibly hit with up to 12 inches, AccuWeather forecasters predicted.
“As the storm evolves from Thursday to Friday, rain will fill up some rain gauges in the lower Mississippi Valley and Southeast, especially from eastern Texas to northern Georgia, upstate South Carolina and western North Carolina,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Bill Deger said.
After Thursday’s downpour, states in the southeast will get a second round of rain dumped on them F, Chenard said.
“It’s going to reload and there will be another round that develops tomorrow,” he said.
The risk of flash flooding is highest in southeast Texas, according to National Weather Service forecasts. People traveling in parts of Louisiana should also take care to avoid roadways that are flooded over, Chenard said.