Memorial Day weekend forecast: South to remain hot, severe storm and smoke concerns farther north

The "unofficial" start of summer is just days away, and many are wondering if their outdoor plans for Memorial Day weekend will be impacted by Mother Nature. AccuWeather meteorologists have been examining the expected weather pattern. They are ready to issue a forecast for the weekend, which will have some reaching for cold beverages while others will have to grab the rain gear.

The pattern will be marked by a front that divides the U.S. between cooler air across the West and northern tier and hot conditions to the south. Along and near that dividing line, showers and thunderstorms can wash out some parades and outdoor remembrances.

With millions expected to spend some time outdoors, there are some dangers to highlight in the forecast for some areas, ranging from localized flooding to lightning, scorching heat and even poor air quality from wildfire smoke.

The recent rainy and stormy weather pattern across the Central and Eastern states will not wane in time for the holiday weekend, says AccuWeather's Long Range forecasting team, led by Senior Meteorologist Paul Pastelok.

"A cold front will sink south and nearly stall from the Plains to the Carolinas and north to southern New England," Pastelok explained. "Showers and thunderstorms traveling along this front will bring interruptions to outdoor occasions and parades."

The Soldiers & Sailors Monument stands behind the Memorial Day Flag Garden on Boston Common, Saturday, May 27, 2023, in Boston. The more than 37,000 flags are placed to honor Massachusetts soldiers who have died in service since the Revolutionary War. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Rain will not fall the entire time through Monday, but locally heavy showers and thunderstorms can lead to downpours. These showers and storms will tend to form in clusters and slowly drift to the south and east along and ahead of the front as the weekend progresses.

In the Midwest, shower and storm chances will be greatest to start the weekend, while parts of the Tennessee Valley, Appalachians and Southeast may be in for a more extended period of rain that lasts through Memorial Day.

Many storms can pack a punch as a result of plentiful moisture in the atmosphere and a clash of air masses as the front approaches.

"Some of the thunderstorms can be strong with torrential downpours, some hail and brief strong wind gusts," said Pastelok. "There is also a risk of training thunderstorms that can lead to flooded roads, causing travel delays."

All thunderstorms will also produce dangerous lightning, which is a risk, with more people expected to be outdoors over the holiday weekend. Remember, if you hear thunder, you are close enough to be struck by lightning and should seek safe shelter until any storm passes.

While the weather in the South has been marked by deadly severe thunderstorms and flooding in recent weeks, dry weather will be common through the Memorial Day weekend, at least along the Gulf Coast. For most areas, that wet weather will be traded in for hot and humid conditions, especially across hard-hit Texas.

"A string of 100-degree days is expected over the holiday weekend across southwestern Texas," warned Pastelok. "The rest of the Lone Star State will experience highs in the mid- to upper 90s." Combined with bright sunshine and high humidity, AccuWeather RealFeel® Temperatures can soar above 100 degrees, increasing the risk for heat-related ailments.

This is unwelcome news for those who may still be cleaning up from flooding and severe weather in eastern Texas, including Houston, where severe thunderstorms caused extensive damage in the downtown area Thursday evening.


Very warm and humid weather will extend east along the Texas and central Gulf coasts and into Florida, places that have experienced record heat as of late. Both McAllen, Texas, and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, have already established new record high temperatures for May within the last week and will likely still be well above historical average high temperatures as the month draws to a close.

Over Memorial Day weekend, some of the quietest weather conditions will be enjoyed along the West Coast, the northern tier, and even a portion of the Northeast. While this will mean great weather for getting outside for most, AccuWeather meteorologists will continue to track the possibility that smoke will return for some.

"A lot of fires continue to burn across western and central Canada, and some of that smoke may continue to drift southward into the northern Plains and the Upper Midwest," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Joe Lundberg.

While trajectories of smoke are hard to predict with precise clarity more than a few days out, some computer model projections are showing at least the risk for hazy skies and poor air quality from smoky conditions, as winds are expected to be favorable for at least some smoke to seep south from wildfires burning in Canada. Those with plans to be outside most of the day or with respiratory ailments should pay close attention to the forecast in the days leading up to the holiday weekend.

However, for most of the western and northern U.S., the forecast looks favorable for outdoor plans, albeit with slightly cool conditions by late-May standards.

"Temperatures will be rather comfortable across the Northern states, and there can be cool nights later on in the holiday weekend," added Pastelok. "Across the Pacific Northwest, the mercury will run cooler than average, as well."

In the Northeast, while there will be a risk of showers and thunderstorms toward the mid-Atlantic, a large portion of upstate New York and northern New England may escape most of the weekend dry. "There will be more sunshine across the north compared to the south," said Pastelok, in reference to the forecast in the Northeast.

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