Cross-country storm threatens to disrupt Thanksgiving travel for 55 million people with snow in the Upper Midwest and torrential rain in the South – as the number traveling approaches pre-pandemic levels
- Large storm system is forming that could drench much of the US in rain on Thanksgiving Day
- Hazards ranging from rain, high wind, and in a few areas snow could disrupt holiday travel
- Major airline hubs such as Chicago, Atlanta and New York could all face impacts
- AAA estimates that 55 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles, close to pre-pandemic records
A major storm system is shaping up to sweep across US this week, potentially making for a dismal Thanksgiving Day and disrupting travel for millions, according to the latest forecasts.
This year nearly 55 million people will travel 50 miles or more from home for Thanksgiving, making it the third-busiest year on record and approaching the travel volume seen before the pandemic struck, according to AAA.
Forecasters say a storm system moving into the Pacific Northwest on Tuesday could link up with moisture from the Gulf of Mexico by Thursday, resulting in widespread storms across the South and Midwest on Thanksgiving Day.
‘Thunderstorms packing torrential downpours could make for a soggy Turkey Day in cities such as Lake Charles and New Orleans, Louisiana, and Jackson, Mississippi,’ said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Bill Deger. ‘Meanwhile, snow showers could make for make for a wintry scene and slick roads in parts of the Upper Midwest.’
If the storm lingers into the weekend, major airline hubs such as Chicago, Atlanta and New York could all face impacts on some of the busiest travel days of the year.
A developing system could result in widespread storms across the South and Midwest on Thanksgiving Day. Much of the South can expect rain and thunderstorms, while snow could hit parts of the Upper Midwest
A precipitation forecast for Thanksgiving Day shows a storm system stretching from Houston to Detroit
Heavy snowfall is seen in upstate New York on Saturday. A new round of storms could hit much of the country this week
Here’s how forecasters say the weather could play out over the Thanksgiving travel period:
- Tuesday: A storm system will bring rain and mountain snow to the Pacific Northwest, while scattered thunderstorms hit parts of Florida and Texas
- Wednesday: Flurries and light snow will cross Montana, Wyoming and the Dakotas, with the continued possibility of rain in Florida
- Thanksgiving Day: A large storm system forms across the center of the country, stretching from Houston to Detroit. Most affected areas will see heavy rain, but snow is possible in parts of the Upper Midwest.
- Friday: Heavy rain will continue in Texas and push east, with a line of storms stretching from the Carolinas to New England. A new line of storms moves over the Pacific Northwest, hitting Portland and Seattle.
- Saturday: Skies clear for much of the country, but a new wave of Gulf moisture brings drenching rain over New Orleans and Mississippi, moving into the Ohio River Valley and Carolinas by nightfall.
- Sunday: Storms are possible over Denver, Chicago and New York City on the busiest travel day of the year.
In most years, the Sunday after Thanksgiving is actually the busiest travel day of the year for US airports, according to the Transportation Security Administration, which tracks the numbers of passengers screened daily.
The day before Thanksgiving also tend to draw big airport crowds, and marks the start of the five-day travel window tracked by AAA.
The group expects the majority of travel to occur by car, with 49 million Americans projected to crowd the roadways this Thanksgiving season.
Experts expect severe road congestion around major cities, with traffic delays as much as double normal, and the highways around Atlanta, Chicago, New York City, and Los Angeles seeing the worst impact.
On Tuesday a storm system will bring rain and mountain snow to the Pacific Northwest, while scattered thunderstorms hit parts of Florida and Texas
Wednesday: Flurries and light snow will cross Montana, Wyoming and the Dakotas, with the continued possibility of rain in Florida
On Friday and Saturday, rain and snow will move into the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic
Another 4.5 million Americans plan to travel by air, reaching 98 percent of pre-pandemic levels even though airline schedules are still reduced by roughly 20 percent, AAA says.
‘Anticipate long TSA lines. If possible, avoid checking a bag to allow for more flexibility if flights are delayed or you need to reschedule,’ warned Mary Maguire, Vice President of Public and Government Affairs at AAA Northeast.
AAA says another 1.43 million Americans plan to use other modes of travel, like buses and trains, a sizeable 23 percent increase from last year.
‘Regardless of the mode of transportation you have chosen, expect crowds during your trip and at your destination. If your schedule is flexible, consider off-peak travel times during the holiday rush,’ said Maguire.
United Airlines said last week it expects to carry 5.5 million passengers during the Thanksgiving travel period, up about 12 percent from 2021.
People wait in a TSA checkpoint line at Orlando International Airport on Saturday Florida. Some 4.5 million Americans plan to travel by air this Thanksgiving, reaching 98 percent of pre-pandemic levels
As Thanksgiving week kicked off, parts of upstate New York were digging out from a potentially record-breaking snowfall over the weekend. The Buffalo, New York area is seen above on Sunday
The carrier will operate more than 3,700 flights per day on average during the holiday period from November 18 to 30. United forecasts it will carry about as many passengers over the holiday as the prepandemic period in 2019.
United also predicts November 27 — the Sunday after Thanksgiving — will be its busiest travel day since the onset of the pandemic, with more than 460,000 passengers.
As Thanksgiving week kicked off, parts of upstate New York were digging out from a potentially record-breaking snowfall over the weekend.
‘This has been a historic storm. Without a doubt, this is one for the record books,’ New York Governor Kathy Hochul said at a briefing Sunday.
Snow began falling Thursday in towns south of Buffalo. By Saturday, the National Weather Service recorded 77 inches in Orchard Park, home to the NFL’s Buffalo Bills, and 72 inches in Natural Bridge, a hamlet near Watertown off the eastern end of Lake Ontario.
Similar multiday storms have brought bigger snowfall totals than that in the past to New York, but the ferocity of the storm on Friday appeared to threaten the state’s record for most snowfall in a 24 hour period: the 50 inches that fell on Camden, New York, on February 1, 1966.
National Weather Service meteorologist Jason Alumbaugh, who is based in Buffalo, said it was too early to say whether any of this year’s snowfalls exceeded that record.
Due to the heavy snowfall, a Sunday football game between the Buffalo Bills’ and Cleveland Browns was moved to Detroit.