Here’s what to expect for Thanksgiving travel

Here’s what to expect for Thanksgiving travel

Can you believe we’re almost to Thanksgiving? At least a few of us think about your travel plans, and whether you’re flying across the country or driving hours across Texas, the weather can cause a major headache and affect how long your travel can take.

AAA Texas estimates that a whopping 49.13 million Americans, including about 3.7 million Texans, will head to Thanksgiving destinations this year, an increase of nearly 2 percent from last year. Another 4.69 million will take to the air, an increase of about 7 percent over last year.

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With just over a week until Thanksgiving, the forecast is becoming clearer. Here’s an early look at what next week’s weather pattern could bring.

Weather pattern

Forecast models generally agree that a cold front will pass through Texas early next week, likely Sunday into Monday. For people in Central and East Texas, this will bring several rain showers to start Thanksgiving week. The question is how long does the rain last?

Obviously the forecast could change between now and the middle of next week, but early indicators point to drier weather by Wednesday as high pressure stabilizes in the state. Keep in mind that travel Sunday through Tuesday will likely be slowed by rain and perhaps even some thunderstorms, especially in East Texas.

Rain tracking: You can see where rain will fall along your Thanksgiving travel route with our interactive radar

Let’s discuss the caveats to these predictions. That is, how quickly will the cold front be pushed out? If the cold front gets out of here quickly, high pressure will bring cooler, clearer weather in time for Thanksgiving. However, if the cold front slowly creeps through the state, it could maintain rain chances through Tuesday and Wednesday, the busiest travel days according to AAA Texas.

Obviously, rain affects Thanksgiving travel the most, but what about temperatures?

Here’s a look at noon temperatures on Thanksgiving Day, according to the national combination of models. Temperatures are expected to reach the 50s and 60s across much of Texas.


What do the forecasts look like so far?

A cold front at the beginning of the week will set the stage for temperatures to be slightly below average on Thanksgiving, but certainly not as cold as Halloween. From Lubbock to Dallas and Houston to San Antonio, Turkey Day highs are expected to be in the mid to upper 60s.

Post-Thanksgiving backyard football games will likely begin under sunny skies across the state by Thursday, but we’re still more than a week away from the holiday. The forecast can and often will change that much, especially if rain-friendly low pressure and a cold front slow down by the middle of next week.

Here's the forecast for cloud cover expected at noon on Thanksgiving, according to the ECMWF model.  Areas in white represent clear skies, while areas in blue show where clouds are expected.

Here’s the forecast for cloud cover expected at noon on Thanksgiving, according to the ECMWF model. Areas in white represent clear skies, while areas in blue show where clouds are expected.


What’s the “average” Thanksgiving in Houston?

Thanksgiving falls on the fourth Thursday in November. Since Thanksgiving does not fall on the same date every year, calculating average weather is a bit more complicated. Thanksgiving falls between November 22 and 28 each year, so averages are based on those dates.

For the week of November 22-28, the average high temperature in Houston is around 70 degrees. The warmest Thanksgiving at Bush Intercontinental Airport occurred in 1973 when temperatures rose to 87 degrees. The coldest Thanksgiving occurred in 1911 when low temperatures dropped to 23 degrees.

This year is consistent with typical late November weather, even if highs end up being a degree or two cooler than normal. As for rainfall, the rainiest Thanksgiving occurred in 1907 when 1.01 inches of rain fell.

At Hobby Airport, the averages are not much different from those at Bush Intercontinental Airport. Records are also similar, with the warmest Thanksgiving occurring in 1973 when the temperature reached 86 degrees. Hobby’s coldest Thanksgiving fall occurred in 1980 when temperatures dropped to 28 degrees. The wettest Thanksgiving on record for Hopi occurred in 1941 when 0.55 inches of rain fell.

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