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Where Rain, Snow or Severe Storms Could Disrupt Thanksgiving Travel

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U.S.|Where Rain, Snow or Severe Storms Could Disrupt Thanksgiving Travel


A "wave of inclement weather" could cause delays for those traveling in the eastern two-thirds of the country this week.

Travelers at Kennedy Airport in New York on Sunday. Storms could disrupt travel in some areas leading up to Thanksgiving, the latest forecasts indicated.Credit...Kena Betancur/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Published Nov. 20, 2023Updated Nov. 22, 2023

It's that time of the year when airports and highways are abundantly crowded as hosts of travelers make their yearly pilgrimage for turkey and stuffing. A pre-Thanksgiving storm may make travel more difficult for many as some regions register severe thunderstorms, gusty winds, heavy rain and even snow at some high elevations.

A storm system that is developing over the central United States on Monday morning will send a "wave of inclement weather through the eastern two-thirds of the country through the next couple of days," forecasters with the Weather Prediction Center said.

Whether wintry precipitation or just plain wet weather, the storm system could impact travel during one of the busiest travel days of the year, as millions take to the skies to break bread with family and friends.

The Transportation Security Administration expects about 30 million passengers to fly between this Friday and the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, which represents an 11.5 percent increase from last year. In the New York area alone, which could be on the path of the storm weather, the four major airports were expecting 3.1 million passengers through Monday next week.

Some 49.1 million people were projected to drive to their Thanksgiving destinations, which would be a 1.7 percent increase from 2022, according to the AAA. The busiest road travel days were expected to be Wednesday and the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

And yet another 750,000 others were going to travel by rail in the seven-day period that started on Sunday, Amtrak said.

Here is when to expect the weather and where it could affect those travel plans.

Five suspected tornadoes were spotted on Monday night — one in northern Louisiana and four in central Mississippi — as of 8:30 p.m., according to the National Weather Service.

There were no immediate reports of suspected tornadoes causing major damages. But forecasters warned on Monday evening that showers and thunderstorms could potentially cause flash flooding from central Louisiana through much of central Mississippi.

The threat of severe storms was expected to decrease on Tuesday, forecasters said, but an isolated tornado could still occur from Georgia into the Carolinas.

Widespread showers and thunderstorms stretching from the South to the Midwest may occur on Tuesday as the storm system moves quickly toward the Northeast in the evening hours.

On Friday, Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York urged caution ahead of Thanksgiving as "extreme winter weather" was expected to affect holiday travel plans across Western New York and the North Country.

How Much Snow to Expect

Source: National Weather Service Notes: Snowfall forecast for . Updated . Results show the nearest location where such data is available. By Aatish Bhatia, Josh Katz and Bea Malsky

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The National Weather Service does not provide snow probabilities for this location

While those earlier forecasts might have hinted at some winter weather disruptions this week, it doesn't look like the impact will be as extreme.

Some areas could be cold enough to support some wet snow over the upper Midwest early on Tuesday, reaching eastward toward interior parts of New England by Tuesday night. There could also be some freezing rain possible, especially for the higher elevations.

Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Notes:  Values are shown only for the contiguous United States and are in inches of water or the equivalent amount of melted snow and ice. By Zach Levitt, Bea Malsky and Martín González Gómez

The major metro areas along the East Coast will mainly see rain and wind from Tuesday evening through Wednesday morning. Such weather would only cause a minor disruption to air traffic on a typical day, but its combination with an increase in volume from holiday travel means there is a chance of longer delays on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning at major airports in the Northeast.

Most of the unsettled weather will have pushed off the East Coast by Wednesday afternoon, leaving a tranquil Thanksgiving Day across most of the United States — and giving people something to be thankful for, even if it is a little bit delayed.

Steven Moity and Rebecca Carballo contributed reporting.

Johnny Diaz is a general assignment reporter covering breaking news. He previously worked for the South Florida Sun Sentinel and The Boston Globe. More about Johnny Diaz

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