Cross-country storm threatens to disrupt Thanksgiving travel for 55M
According to the latest forecasts, a major storm system is threatening to sweep across the US this week, potentially leading to a gloomy Thanksgiving Day and disrupting the travel of millions.
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 of before the pandemic hit, AAA said.
Forecasters say a storm system moving into the Pacific Northwest on Tuesday may connect with moisture from the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday, resulting in widespread storms in the South and Midwest on Thanksgiving Day.
“Thunderstorms with heavy downpours could make for a soggy turkey day in cities like Lake Charles and New Orleans, Louisiana and Jackson, Mississippi,” said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Bill Deger. “Meanwhile, snow showers can create a wintry scene and slick roads in parts of the Upper Midwest.”
If the storm continues into the weekend, major aviation hubs like Chicago, Atlanta and New York could all experience some of the busiest travel days of the year.
An evolving system could lead to widespread storms across the South and Midwest on Thanksgiving Day. Much of the South can expect rain and thunderstorms, while snow can hit parts of the Upper Midwest
Heavy snow falls in New York state on Saturday. A new series of thunderstorms could affect 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 brings rain and mountain snow to the Pacific Northwest as scattered thunderstorms hit parts of Florida and Texas
- Wednesday: Flurries and light snow moving through Montana, Wyoming and the Dakotas, with a lingering chance of rain in Florida
- Thanksgiving Day: A large storm system forms in the center of the country, stretching from Houston to Detroit. Heavy rain will fall in most affected areas, but snow is possible in parts of the Upper Midwest.
- Friday: Heavy rains continue in Texas and move east, with a series of storms stretching from the Carolinas to New England. A new wave of storms is moving across the Pacific Northwest, hitting Portland and Seattle.
- Saturday: Skies are clear across much of the country, but another wave of moisture in the Gulf is driving drenching rain over New Orleans and Mississippi, moving into the Ohio River Valley and Carolinas by evening.
- 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 U.S. airports, according to the Transportation Security Administration, which tracks the number of passengers screened daily.
The day before Thanksgiving also often draws major airport crowds and marks the beginning of the five-day travel window tracked by AAA.
The group expects the majority of travel to be by car, with 49 million Americans expected to hit the roads this Thanksgiving season.
Experts expect severe traffic congestion around major cities, with traffic delays up to double normal, with highways around Atlanta, Chicago, New York City and Los Angeles most affected.
On Tuesday, a storm system will bring rain and mountain snow to the Pacific Northwest as scattered thunderstorms hit parts of Florida and Texas
Wednesday: Flurries and light snow moving through Montana, Wyoming and the Dakotas, with a lingering chance of rain in Florida
On Friday and Saturday, rain and snow will move to the northeast and the 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 being cut by about 20 percent, AAA says.
Anticipate long TSA lines. If possible, avoid checking in a bag to allow more flexibility if flights are delayed or you need to reschedule,” cautioned Mary Maguire, Vice President of Public and Government Affairs at AAA Northeast.
AAA says an additional 1.43 million Americans plan to use other modes of travel, such as buses and trains, a significant 23 percent increase from last year.
‘Regardless of the means of transport you have chosen, take into account crowds during your journey and at your destination. If your schedule is flexible, consider off-peak hours during the holiday rush,” Maguire said.
United Airlines said last week it expects to carry 5.5 million passengers during the Thanksgiving travel period, about 12 percent more than in 2021.
People wait Saturday in Florida at a TSA checkpoint at Orlando International Airport. About 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 New York state were digging in after a potentially record-breaking snowfall over the weekend. The area around Buffalo, New York is seen above on Sunday
The airline will operate an average of more than 3,700 flights per day during the holiday season from November 18 to 30. United predicts it will carry about the same number of passengers during the holidays as during the prepandemic period in 2019.
United also predicts that November 27 – the Sunday after Thanksgiving – will be the busiest travel day since the outbreak of the pandemic, with more than 460,000 passengers.
As Thanksgiving week kicked off, parts of New York state were digging in after a potentially record-breaking snowfall over the weekend.
“This has been a historic storm. This is definitely one for the record books,” New York Governor Kathy Hochul said at a briefing Sunday.
Snow began falling Thursday in towns south of Buffalo. On Saturday, the National Weather Service recorded 77 inches in Orchard Park, home of the NFL’s Buffalo Bills, and 72 inches in Natural Bridge, a hamlet near Watertown on the east side of Lake Ontario.
Similar multi-day storms have brought greater snowfall totals to New York than in the past, 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, based in Buffalo, said it was too early to say whether any of this year’s snowfall surpassed that record.
Due to the heavy snowfall, a Sunday football game between the Buffalo Bills’ and Cleveland Browns was moved to Detroit.