Severe weather could hamper your travel, outdoor plans for Memorial Day weekend (2024)

Christopher CannUSA TODAY

A series of storms is forecast to unleash dangerous weather conditions across the central and eastern U.S. through Memorial Day weekend, likely snarling traffic and delaying flights during one of busiest travel periods of the year.

Friday's weather remained relatively calm throughout the day in many regions, which boasted comfortable temperatures for an early start to the holiday weekend. But weather advisories were in effect in several areas of the Midwest, where a handful of storms barreled through Friday morning.

Those storms brought winds as high as 70 mph and heavy rain Friday to small towns still reeling from powerful winds, rain and tornadoes from earlier in the week, including Greenfield, Iowa, where a twister killed four people, injured 35 others and damaged more than 150 homes on Tuesday.

In southwest Oklahoma, at least one tornado touched down late Thursday, the weather service said. Repair efforts were underway Friday after multiple houses were damaged, including one that had its roof blown off, according to local media reports. In Nebraska, softball-sized hail fell as strong winds uprooted trees and tangled power lines. As of Friday morning, over 25,000 homes and businesses were without power across Iowa and Nebraska, according to a USA TODAY outage tracker.

Meteorologists in the weather service's Quad Cities office on Friday warned of high winds and the potential formation of tornadoes in Iowa and Illinois throughout the day.

"An arcing line of severe storms continues to move east at 60 mph this AM. The primary threats are damaging winds, with embedded tornadoes possible in northwest IL," the weather service said. "After this line moves out, WE ARE NOT DONE! More strong to severe storms are possible this afternoon."

A corridor stretching from northeastern Texas and the Tennessee Valley to Missouri and Illinois – where more than 45 million people live – faces the greatest risk of floods, damaging winds and possible tornadoes on Friday, according to the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center. The cities in the crosshairs of the various storms include Dallas, Chicago, Indianapolis, Memphis and Milwaukee. Flood watches and warnings were in effect throughout eastern Arkansas, northern Mississippi and western Tennessee, where 2-3 inches of rain had fallen.

The persistent threat of severe weather comes on the heels of deadly storms that, since last week, have ravaged the Plains and Midwest, especially the Texas cities of Houston and Temple, and Greenfield, Iowa. Over the last week, at least nine deaths, dozens of injuries and millions of dollars in damages have been tied to the nonstop severe weather outbreak.

Weekend forecast: Plains, Midwest face unrelenting storms

Through the holiday weekend, the Plains and Midwest regions, which for the last several weeks have been battered by potent and deadly storms, will face a constant threat of tornadoes.

Meteorologists forecast "several strong to violent tornadoes, extreme hail, and corridors of widespread wind damage" throughout the central and southern Plains on Saturday. A moderate risk of severe storms – a 4 on a scale of 5 – is concentrated over Kansas and Oklahoma, with Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Wichita being the cities in the threat zone.

The storms are forecast to shift northeast on Sunday, bringing severe thunderstorms over parts of eastern Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky. A much larger area of the Midwest and south-central U.S. is in the path of the storm system, too. By Monday, meteorologists expect the poor weather to expand into the mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions.

"Thunderstorms this weekend will not only threaten outdoor events such as weddings, barbeques and camping trips, but they can be dangerous across the Great Plains to the East Coast," according to AccuWeather.

Over 43 million people to travel during stormy holiday weekend

With the unofficial start to summer meeting a ferocious stretch of severe weather, travelers across the central and eastern U.S. may experience delays on the roads and at airports.

Nearly 44 million peoplewill travel 50 miles or more over the Memorial Day holiday travel period, which is from Friday, May 23 to Monday, May 27, according to projections from The American Automobile Association.Over 38 million people will travel by car, while more than 3.5 million will take flights.

"We haven't seen Memorial Day weekend travel numbers like these in almost 20 years," Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel, said in a statement. "We're projecting an additional one million travelers this holiday weekend compared to 2019, which not only means we're exceeding pre-pandemic levels but also signals a very busy summer travel season ahead."

On Thursday, storms forced officials to temporarily ground flights at New York City's two major airports, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Hundreds of flights were delayed across the mid-Atlantic and New England, including at airports in Boston, New Jersey and Philadelphia.

Cleanup, recovery underway in the aftermath of devastating storms

Across the central U.S., construction crews, utility workers, emergency responders and residents worked to clear the immense wreckage left in the wake of recent storms.

In Greenfield, Iowa, dozens of volunteers joined authorities from around the state to assist in the recovery after the town was decimated Tuesday afternoon by a powerful tornado. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said at the news conference Thursday that the response has been remarkable. "I was on the ground yesterday and I can't even tell you the amount of debris that has been collected and hauled off," she said.

In Houston, authorities worked to repair buildings that were damaged by storms that barreled through the city on May 16, killing eight people and knocking out power to tens of thousands of homes and businesses, most of which has been restored this week. The city's emergency management office said several roads will be closed through the weekend as waste management workers continue collecting storm debris.

In Temple, a city about 60 miles north of Austin, emergency responders were clearing downed trees, piles of wreckage and restoring power following a tornado that damaged homes and left several people with minor injuries on Wednesday. In Bell County, which encompasses Temple, more than 25,000 utility customers were without power on Friday, according to a USA TODAY outage tracker.

National weather radar

Contributing: Gabe Hauari, USA TODAY; José Mendiola, Des Moines Register

Severe weather could hamper your travel, outdoor plans for Memorial Day weekend (2024)


What is a severe weather readiness plan and why is it important? ›

The objectives of this Severe Weather Preparedness Plan are to: Reduce risk to personal safety through awareness, early decision-making, and advance preparation; Minimize, to the extent possible, loss or damage to property and research assets, and; Position the MBL for rapid recovery and resumption of its core mission.

What should you do where should you go during this extreme weather? ›

Find shelter during severe weather

Move to the middle of your home or basem*nt, away from windows and glass doors. Try to take cover under a staircase or a heavy piece of furniture. Evacuate manufactured homes.

How to prepare for a severe weather event? ›

Before the Storm
  1. Have an emergency plan and and a supply kit.
  2. Secure all outdoor furniture, garbage cans, decorations or anything that may be lifted by high winds.
  3. Plan to shelter outdoor pets indoors.
  4. Know your area's flood risk.

In what type of weather emergency would you want to move to higher ground to stay safe? ›

Flash floods can move boulders, knock down bridges, and destroy buildings. Walls of water, often filled with debris, can reach up to 20 feet. If you receive a warning or are caught in a flash flood, move immediately to higher ground.

What are the four types of severe weather? ›

Severe Weather 101
  • Thunderstorms. There can be as many as 40,000 thunderstorms each day around the world. ...
  • Tornadoes. Much about tornadoes remains a mystery. ...
  • Floods. Except for heat-related fatalities, more deaths occur from flooding than any other weather-related hazard. ...
  • Lightning. ...
  • Hail. ...
  • Damaging Winds. ...
  • Winter Weather.

What is a severe weather emergency? ›

Severe weather emergencies include: blizzard, flood, hail, lightning, natural disaster, snow, thunderstorm, and tornado. This is not intended as an exhaustive listing, but provides overall guidance that can be extended to any weather emergency or natural disaster.

How do you respond to severe weather? ›

Immediate Emergency Actions

If you see or hear threatening weather (i.e., tornado, high winds, lightning, thunder, etc.) or hear that a Warning has been issued for your area. Seek shelter and get inside immediately to an interior room or hallway. Shut all doors and windows. Stay away from exterior windows and doors.

What should you do in a bad weather? ›

Close windows, external and internal doors. Pull curtains and drapes over unprotected glass areas to prevent injury from shattered or flying glass. If the wind becomes destructive, stay away from doors and windows and shelter further inside the house. Avoid bathtubs, water taps, and sinks.

What are three 3 ways that you can stay safe during a severe storm? ›

If you are under a thunderstorm warning:
  • When thunder roars, go indoors! Move from outdoors into a building or car with a roof.
  • Pay attention to alerts and warnings.
  • Avoid using electronic devices connected to an electrical outlet.
  • Avoid running water.
  • Turn Around. Don't Drown! Do not drive through flooded roadways.
Mar 21, 2024

Where is the best place to be during severe weather? ›

The safest place in the home is the interior part of a basem*nt. If there is no basem*nt, go to an inside room, without windows, on the lowest floor. This could be a center hallway, bathroom, or closet. For added protection, get under something sturdy such as a heavy table or workbench.

How do you protect yourself from bad weather? ›

The most important things to remember are:
  1. GET IN - If you are outside, get inside. If you're already inside, get as far into the middle of the building as possible.
  2. GET DOWN - Get underground if possible. ...
  3. COVER UP - Flying and falling debris are a storm's number one killer.

What to do during a storm? ›

Seek shelter immediately either in an enclosed building or a hard-topped vehicle. There is no safe place outside in a thunderstorm. If caught outside far from a safe location, stay away from tall objects, such as trees, poles, wires and fences. Take shelter in a low lying area.

Why is it important to prepare for extreme weather? ›

By being prepared and knowing what to do, you can minimize the risks to you and your family. Make sure you have an emergency kit stocked with supplies, create an evacuation plan, and stay up-to-date on weather forecasts so you know when a storm is headed your way.

Why is it important to study severe weather? ›

Severe storms cause widespread property damage and regularly lead to loss of life, so meteorologists gather data on their formation to improve our warning systems. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Hazardous Weather Testbed is a joint project of the NSSL and the National Weather Service (NWS).

Why is it important to have an emergency preparedness plan? ›

The actions taken in the initial minutes of an emergency are critical. Prompt action and warnings can save lives, minimize physical damage to structures and property, and allow for better resilience. Every business should develop and implement an emergency plan for protecting employees, contractors and visitors.

Why is it important to have a family plan for severe weather? ›

Make a plan today. Your family may not be together if a disaster strikes, so it is important to know which types of disasters could affect your area. Know how you'll contact one another and reconnect if separated. Establish a family meeting place that's familiar and easy to find.

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