A major storm system is looming to sweep across the US this week, which the latest forecasts say could potentially lead to a dismal Thanksgiving and disrupt travel for millions.
This year, nearly 55 million people will travel 50 miles or more from home for Thanksgiving, making it the third-biggest year on record and nearing travel volume recorded before the pandemic, according to the AAA.
Forecasters say a storm system moving into the Pacific Northwest on Tuesday could combine with moisture from the Gulf of Mexico by Thursday, which could lead to widespread storms in the South and Midwest on Thanksgiving Day.
“Thunderstorms with torrential downpours could result in a wet turkey day in cities like Lake Charles and New Orleans, Louisiana, and Jackson, Mississippi,” said Bill Deger, chief weather forecaster at AccuWeather. “Meanwhile, snow showers could make for a wintry scene and slick roads in parts of the upper Midwest.”
If the storm continues into the weekend, major air hubs like Chicago, Atlanta and New York could have an impact on some of the busiest travel days of the year.
A developing system could lead to widespread storms in the South and Midwest during Thanksgiving. Much of the South can expect rain and thunderstorms, while snow could hit parts of the upper Midwest
A Thanksgiving Day precipitation forecast shows a storm system stretching from Houston to Detroit
Heavy snowfall can be observed in upstate New York on Saturday. A new wave of storms could hit much of the country this week
Here’s how weather forecasters say the weather could be shaping up during the Thanksgiving holiday season:
- Tuesday: A storm system will bring rain and mountain snow to the Pacific Northwest, while isolated thunderstorms will hit parts of Florida and Texas
- Wednesday: Thunderstorms and light snow move across Montana, Wyoming and the Dakotas, with continued rain likely in Florida
- Thanksgiving Day: A major storm system is forming in the center of the country, stretching from Houston to Detroit. Heavy rain is expected in most affected areas, but snow is possible in parts of the upper Midwest.
- Friday: Heavy rain will continue in Texas, pushing east with a series of storms stretching from the Carolinas to New England. A new storm line is moving across the Pacific Northwest, hitting Portland and Seattle.
- Saturday: Skies are clear across much of the country, but a new wave of moisture from the Gulf is bringing soggy 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 U.S. airports, according to the Transportation Security Administration, which tracks the number of passengers screened each day.
The day before Thanksgiving also typically draws many airport visitors and marks the start of the five-day travel window tracked by AAA.
The group anticipates that the majority of travel will be by car, with 49 million Americans expected to fill the streets this Thanksgiving season.
Experts expect severe road congestion in major cities, with traffic delays twice the normal rate, and the freeways around Atlanta, Chicago, New York City and Los Angeles will suffer the worst effects.
On Tuesday, a storm system will bring rain and mountain snow across the Pacific Northwest, while isolated thunderstorms will hit parts of Florida and Texas
Wednesday: Thunderstorms and light snow move across Montana, Wyoming and the Dakotas, with continued rain likely in Florida
On Friday and Saturday, rain and snow will move to the Northeast and mid-Atlantic
Another 4.5 million Americans plan to travel by air, reaching 98 percent of pre-pandemic levels, though flight schedules are still reduced by about 20 percent, AAA says.
“Expect long TSA lines. Avoid checking one bag whenever possible to have more flexibility if flights are delayed or you need to reschedule,” warned Mary Maguire, vice president of public and government affairs at AAA Northeast.
According to the AAA, another 1.43 million Americans plan to use other modes of transportation such as buses and trains, a whopping 23 percent increase from the previous year.
“Regardless of what mode of transport you choose, expect crowds during your journey and at your destination. If your schedule is flexible, consider non-peak travel times during the holiday rush,” Maguire said.
United Airlines said last week it expects to carry 5.5 million passengers during the Thanksgiving travel season, up about 12 percent from 2021.
People wait in a TSA checkpoint line at Orlando International Airport in Florida on Saturday. About 4.5 million Americans plan to travel by plane this Thanksgiving Day, reaching 98 percent of pre-pandemic levels
As Thanksgiving week kicked off, parts of upstate New York dug up over the weekend after a potentially record-breaking snowfall. The Buffalo, New York area is seen above on Sunday
The airline will operate an average of more than 3,700 flights per day during the November 18-30 holiday season. United forecasts it will carry about as many passengers during the holiday as it did before the pandemic in 2019.
United is also forecasting that Nov. 27 — the Sunday after Thanksgiving — will be the busiest travel day since the pandemic began, with more than 460,000 passengers.
As Thanksgiving week kicked off, parts of upstate New York dug up over the weekend after a potentially record-breaking snowfall.
“This was a historic storm. Without a doubt, this is one for the record books,” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said at a briefing on Sunday.
Snow began to fall in cities south of Buffalo on Thursday. As of 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 eastern end of Lake Ontario.
Similar multi-day storms have brought greater snowfall totals to New York than in the past, but the severity of Friday’s storm 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 lives in Buffalo, said it was too early to say if any of this year’s snowfalls surpassed that record.
Due to heavy snowfall, a Sunday football game between the Buffalo Bills and the Cleveland Browns was moved to Detroit.