Holiday travelers to get soaked, possibly slowed in East

Better tell Grandma you might be late.

That is the sad, wet reality Tuesday and into Wednesday in the eastern United States, which is being socked by rain, wind and even a little snow just ahead of the Christmas holiday.

As of late Tuesday morning, travelers in soaking wet Philadelphia were seeing average delays of almost 2 hours due to “low ceilings,” the Federal Aviation Administration reported. Things weren’t much better at LaGuardia and Newark Liberty airports in and around New York City.

Going by ground, rather than by air, won’t be much better — and not just in the Northeast.

Manhattan, for example, is only expected to get a fraction of an inch of rain Tuesday, and perhaps over an inch Wednesday. That doesn’t even compare to the Southeast

The National Weather Service warned that 2 to 4 inches of precipitation are expected, with 6 to 8 inches possible, in parts of Alabama, Georgia and north Florida by the time this storm rolls through. That’s the kind of weather that could flood the river you have to cross to get to Grandma’s house.

“It looks like a mess setting up,” meteorologist Pedram Javaheri said on CNN’s sister network HLN.

Lower gas prices, more weather headaches?

The Grinch-like weather is courtesy of a weather system spinning in the middle Mississippi River Valley. It’s expected to move slowly northeast over the next couple of days up into the Great Lakes Region.

Rain will be out ahead of the system, soaking the Southeast, the Ohio Valley and the Northeast throughout the day Tuesday.

At the same time, a weather system that formed in the Gulf of Mexico pushed moisture north on Tuesday and Wednesday, creating heavy rain and winds up to 30 mph in the Southeast, CNN meteorologist Michael Guy said. On the Gulf Coast, at least, these storms could be accompanied by large hail and possibly isolated tornadoes.

All this wetness could make for treacherous driving on the I-95 corridor, which runs up the East Coast.

And none of it is good news for the 98.6 million Americans that AAA projects will be going 50 or more miles this holiday season, a 4% increase from last year. They can take advantage of plummeting gas prices — which, averaging $2.25 nationwide, are down 69 cents a gallon from a year ago — but they might have to wait to enjoy some home cooking if they’re caught up in bad weather.

One plus: By Christmas Day, things should quiet down on the East Coast, with most of the moisture having moved into and past Canada.

“There may be a few lingering snow showers across the Western Appalachians and interior New England,” he said. “Winds will be strongest Christmas Eve night into Christmas morning for the Northeast as the front and system passes.”

Rain, snow also hitting parts of the West

It’s not just the East.

The West will have its own travel problems, with precipitation forecast to hit the Northwest on Tuesday moving into the Rockies — in the form of snow — Christmas Day.

The National Weather Service says snow is likely in Denver; Missoula, Montana; and Jackson, Wyoming. Flight delays are also possible in places like Minneapolis; St. Louis; and Omaha, Nebraska,

Even Hawaii isn’t immune, with flash flood watches in effect for all its main islands through Wednesday night due to heavy rains.

Of course, its not all gloom and doom. In Southern California, kids can play with their freshly opened Christmas presents outside under mostly sunny skies, with high temperatures in the mid-60s.

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Video: The weather outside is frightful

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