Weird, potentially dangerous weather to usher in winter

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(CNN) — Near-record heat, heavy rain and flooding, and the threat of tornadoes and heavy icing will usher in winter throughout parts of the nation this weekend, CNN meteorologists say.

“I see problems, and definitely no shortage of them,” CNN meteorologist Indra Petersons said Friday.

Winter officially begins Saturday, as does the unofficial start of the Christmas holiday travel period. About 94.5 million Americans are expected to travel for the holiday, according to AAA.

Of greatest concern: a moderate risk of severe thunderstorms that could produce isolated tornadoes in the lower Mississippi Valley, and the threat of a half-inch to an inch of ice in parts of upstate New York, Vermont and Maine.

The problems will begin Friday night, as a front fueled by moisture from the Gulf of Mexico sweeps across the Lower Mississippi Valley. Up to 5 inches of rain is expected across a broad area, with flood watches posted from northeast Texas all the way to eastern New York.

The risk of severe thunderstorms is greatest in parts of Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee, forecasters say.

A band of snow and freezing rain will stretch from Oklahoma to Michigan, bringing as much as 8 to 10 inches of snow. The system is expected to coat upstate New York, northwest Vermont and Maine with more than a half-inch of ice.

“This could be another heavy ice storm here,” Petersons said.

Meanwhile, temperatures will continue to rise in the East ahead of the cold front trailing the storms, with New York reaching an unseasonable 67 degrees Sunday as Washington warms to 72 degrees.

Once it’s all said and done, it appears that the storms won’t leave much snow for those hoping for a white Christmas. That pleasure will probably go to Colorado and parts of the Great Lakes region, Petersons said.