4th of July forecast: Heat, storms could upend holiday plans

The first week of July will be filled with festivals, fireworks, parades and backyard barbecues as people from coast to coast head outdoors to celebrate Independence Day, and AccuWeather meteorologists warn many will have to contend with sweltering heat or booming thunderstorms.

Nearly 71 million people are expected to travel in the days surrounding the 4th of July, making it "the busiest ever," according to AAA, beating out 2019 when 65.2 million people traveled for the summer holiday.

"Gas prices are lower than last year when the national average was $3.53," AAA added. "Pump prices will likely continue going down leading up to Independence Day."

Fireworks burst above the National Mall, and from left, the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol building during Independence Day celebrations in Washington, late Tuesday, July 4, 2023. (AP Photo/Stephanie Scarbrough)

From the nation's capitol to the mountains of the West, here is what people can expect leading up to Independence Day.

Heat will build once again from late June into early July from the southern Plains to the East Coast with widespread higher in the 90s. An uptick in humidity will make it feel even hotter, sending AccuWeather RealFeel® Temperatures to 100-105 degrees.

Some of the heat will rebound in the Northeast and Midwest by the middle of next week, but AccuWeather's team of long-range forecasters does not expect it to be as intense as the heat wave in mid-June for these areas.

Heat and humidity could impact Independence Day parades, particularly for those who are walking in the event or spending an extended period of time in the sun.

Typical summer heat will also bake areas of the interior West, including Phoenix and Las Vegas.

As heat sends the mercury soaring for millions, thunderstorms will rumble across a swath of the country, threatening travel and outdoor holiday festivities.

People from the northern Plains, across the Great Lakes and into the Ohio Valley and mid-Atlantic could face multiple rounds of thunderstorms throughout the first week of July, including on Independence Day.

"If you're in these areas, then you'll want to watch the forecast closely as it's tough to rule out rain and thunderstorms at this time," AccuWeather Meteorologist Joseph Bauer said. He added that spotty storms could also pop up over the Four Corners, especially over mountainous terrain.

While some of the storms could be severe, every thunderstorm poses the risk of lightning. July is the deadliest month for lightning strikes across the United States due to widespread thunderstorms and more people spending time outdoors, and experts recommend seeking shelter at the first sign of thunder or lightning.

Lightning Alerts are now available on the free AccuWeather app. The app alerts users when lightning is detected nearby.

A lightning bolt strikes One World Trade Center in New York City during a thunderstorm on Sept. 25, 2022, as seen from Jersey City, New Jersey. (Photo by Gary Hershorn/Getty Images)

The West Coast is expected to have fewer weather concerns throughout the first week of July.

Have the app? Unlock AccuWeather Alerts™ with Premium+

Occasional showers could dampen Seattle during the week, but otherwise, most of the region is forecast to have rain-free weather through Independence Day.