A pre-Thanksgiving storm could cause travel chaos in the central and eastern United States
Nearly 55 million Americans are preparing for busy travel days ahead of Thanksgiving. AccuWeather meteorologists have all the details on where the weather could add more congestion on the road and in the air.
A storm packed with rain, wind, severe weather and even some winter shenanigans will hit the central and eastern United States at an inopportune time during peak holiday travel.
Turkeys are being bought and bags are being packed as Americans prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday, which is less than a week away. AccuWeather meteorologists say a major storm will bring a myriad of weather hazards that could lead to more congestion on the road and in the air in parts of the country.
According to AAA, 55.4 million travelers will travel at least 50 miles from home for Thanksgiving, which represents a 2.3 percent increase over last year.
A window covered in rain blocks the view through the final window of a United Express passenger plane at the gate of Denver International Airport in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)
“As millions of Americans plan to hit the roads and airports ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, a powerful storm is expected to bring a myriad of impactful weather conditions to the central and eastern United States,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Brandon Buckingham said.
Read on below for details on where the storm will bring the worst pre-holiday weather.
AccuWeather meteorologists say wet conditions and road spray will add to slowdowns on highways across the southern part of the country as rain and thunderstorms sweep east Sunday into Tuesday.
Cities like Oklahoma City will be the first to encounter stormy weather late into the weekend, before the threat turns east along the Interstate 20 and I-10 corridors early this week, arriving at Atlanta’s main airport hub on Tuesday.
For some of these locations, this will be the first risk of severe thunderstorms since September.
“While some of this rain will be beneficial in drought-stricken places like Louisiana, the Tennessee Valley and southern Appalachia (this week), the risk of minor flooding and many flight delays will also accompany the stormy weather,” Buckingham said.
Wet days have been few and far between so far this month across the Northeast. Stormy weather will arrive this week at the wrong time. Rain and wind are likely to cause the greatest air traffic and travel disruptions along the I-95 corridor from Washington, D.C., to Boston during some of the busiest travel days of the year — the Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving.
“Many places in the Northeast have had a very dry November so far. As of Saturday morning, precipitation totals in Philadelphia and New York City had totaled just 0.07 inches for the entire month. In one fell swoop, a lot of places had snowfall,” said lead meteorologist David Dombeck. Weather at AccuWeather: “It will be left out of the top 10 list for driest November on record (this) week due to a large storm that will bring heavy rain to the region.”
“Expect some flooding in areas of poor drainage as well as puddles of water on streets and highways. This will have an impact on travel even in a normal situation, but with high pre-holiday travel volume on Tuesday and Tuesday night, this will certainly impact travel.” “It will have a bigger impact,” Dombeck said.
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In the New York City area, the greatest impacts will be Tuesday night into early Wednesday, while the worst weather will occur across much of New England on Wednesday morning. According to AAA, from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m Local time Wednesday is the worst time to travel for the holiday.
Throughout the interior, there may be enough cold air at the start of the precipitation for conditions to become slippery for a period from late Tuesday into Wednesday with a mix of ice and snow. This risk will be greatest from northeastern Pennsylvania to northern New England.
As a major storm system strengthens on its way across the eastern third of the country, gusty winds will blow across the Great Lakes, Ohio Valley and Northeast, creating rougher air travel and dangerous headwinds for motorists. Wind speeds could reach 30 to 40 mph and possibly as high as 50 mph.
Forecasters say cooler air is expected to arrive behind the storm, but it may be delayed a bit and not arrive in time for Thanksgiving.
It will likely take until the last weekend of November for the full trend of cold air to sink into the Northeast states and bring rounds of rain and lake-shaped snowstorms. The chance of a major lake snow event before and during the Thanksgiving holiday began to diminish Saturday as AccuWeather meteorologists analyzed the latest weather data.
However, the delayed arrival of cold air may not reduce travel impacts if lakeshore snow begins to fall during the busy post-Thanksgiving travel days.
This could be a concern for holiday travelers because the risk of lake-effect rain and snowstorms is not timed well with the Thanksgiving travel peak, said John Porter, AccuWeather’s chief meteorologist.
“We recommend people check AccuWeather forecasts frequently over the coming days, especially if they have any travel plans around the Thanksgiving holiday near the Great Lakes,” Porter said.
Thanksgiving Day is expected to be largely dry and cold across the Northeast, including large East Coast cities, according to Dombeck.
“For the Thanksgiving parades scheduled in New York City and Philadelphia, the wind situation doesn’t look too bad,” Dombeck said.
AccuWeather’s team of meteorologists will closely monitor weather trends for the days following the holiday to give travelers advance notice of potential adverse conditions for their flight home. There was already a storm brewing on their radar last weekend, which could spread rain and snow from the Rockies to the Northeast during the last weekend of November.
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