Thanksgiving travel prediction: Storm duo could wreak havoc for …
With Thanksgiving now just over a week away, those traveling by road, rail and air are preparing for their trip to Grandma's house (and elsewhere) and back. AccuWeather meteorologists warn that those well-laid plans could be upended or a slow-go due to storminess in parts of the country.
Heavy rain, gusty winds and even snow are expected as a pair of storms is forecast to join forces in the eastern half of the country next week. This could wreak havoc for millions during some of the traditionally busiest hours of pre-Thanksgiving travel.
In contrast to that, an early look at post-Thanksgiving travel the following weekend reveals that conditions could be much quieter for the millions headed back home.
According to AAA, 55.4 million travelers will be venturing at least 50 miles from home for Thanksgiving, which would be an increase of 2.3 percent over last year. Breaking it down further, the motor club says next Wednesday and the three days following Thanksgiving are the busiest for travel. Because of that, some who leave early next week on Monday and Tuesday may have a leg up on traffic and beating the weather, AccuWeather says.
"Ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, a soaking storm can track from the central U.S. toward the East, complicating travel plans," AccuWeather Meteorologist Alyssa Glenny said. "However, conditions across the Northeast earlier in the week will be on the calmer side by comparison."
An area of high pressure, building in behind an early-weekend cold front and storm that can bring heavy rain and gusty winds, will serve up plenty of sunshine and dry weather on Monday from Maine to Virginia and on Tuesday across the New York Tri-State area and most of New England. This means that those who are able to leave early in the week and would be traveling in just that region will take advantage of both the lighter traffic and dry weather.
Travelers wait in line to board an Amtrak train ahead of the Thanksgiving Day holiday at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Glenny points out that while it will be dry ahead of the next storm, it will also be cool.
"Temperatures across the region will run a bit lower than the historical average, with highs expected to be in the 40s and 50s, for the most part," she said. This will stand in contrast to the warmer-than-average conditions expected there late this week.
Similarly quiet weather can also be expected across the West and Rockies early in the week, with travel expected to go off without a hitch weather-wise there. This also is a flip in the weather from the week before, when rain and snow were impacting portions of the region, especially California.
As the Northeast enjoys quiet weather for travel to start the week, the same will not be true for a swath of the central and southern U.S., according to AccuWeather meteorologists. A pair of storm systems affecting over a dozen states from the Canadian border to the Gulf coast will move east and bring a variety of impacts along with it.
Since heavy rain and gusty winds will take aim at the nation's midsection early in the week, those with some flexibility in their travel plans next week will have to weigh whether they want to travel earlier in rough weather or wait until midweek when traffic will be heavier.
Rain, in some areas coming down heavy and generating road spray, can be expected across most of the Mississippi, Tennessee and Ohio valleys on Monday and Monday night, including around the cities of Atlanta, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Memphis, Nashville, New Orleans and St. Louis. Those traveling by air in this region may have to contend with flight delays as a result of reduced visibility and lower cloud ceilings caused by the rain.
Around the same time, an area of lighter precipitation will move through the Upper Midwest and into the Great Lakes from a secondary storm moving in from Canada. Precipitation will come down as mainly rain from Chicago to Detroit on Monday and Monday night, but it may mix with snow for a time in places like Des Moines, Iowa, and Duluth and the Twin Cities (Minneapolis and St. Paul) in Minnesota.
Even behind the storm in the Plains, problems will be caused by gusty winds.
"Across the center of the country, conditions can turn quite windy from Monday and Tuesday behind the storminess," said Glenny. "Wind gusts can reach 30 to 40 mph, and perhaps as high as 50 mph, leading to hefty crosswinds for highway motorists as they head to their Thanksgiving destinations."
While the worst weather will not coincide with the busiest travel times in the nation's heartland, the same, unfortunately, will not be true for some travelers in the East. By late Tuesday and early Wednesday, the storms will merge in the eastern Great Lakes, Appalachians and Eastern Seaboard, spreading heavy rain and gusty winds all the way to the coast.
According to AAA, 2:00 to 6:00 p.m. local time on Wednesday is the worst time to travel. Around this time frame, the heaviest rain from the newly-formed storm could be soaking a portion of the East Coast, especially in parts of New England. Such conditions would severely delay travel, no matter what mode of transportation is utilized.
Glenny warns that it may be too early to target exact times for the heavy rain, as the speed of the storm will be key in determining when and where the downpours erupt.
"A main factor to monitor with this storm will be how quickly it can exit New England," she said.
A faster exit could bring drier conditions for most of Wednesday across the Great Lakes, interior Northeast, mid-Atlantic and Southeast, which would be good news in cities such as Detroit and Washington, D.C., where AAA projects that Wednesday would feature the most congestion. A slower one could mean more heavy rain later on Wednesday for more of the I-95 corridor.
On the flip side of Thanksgiving, for those traveling back home armed with leftover turkey, AAA says that Friday and the weekend feature the busiest travel days in the Atlanta, Denver, Houston, New York and San Francisco metropolitan areas, among many others. AccuWeather forecasters are narrowing in on the forecast for this time frame, and it will be smooth sailing for most at least weather-wise.
"Behind the storminess next week, dry air will filter southward out of Canada," said Glenny. "It will also be chilly for many, with temperatures trending near to slightly below historical averages for late November, especially in many Great Lakes and Northeast cities."
The dry weather, courtesy of a sprawling area of high pressure, is expected across most of the Midwest, South and East on Friday. The same will also be true along the West Coast, where an offshore ridge of high pressure will set up shop.
One thing to watch by the weekend could be a storm moving from the Rockies to the Northeast. This could spread a swath of mainly light rain and snow across the Denver area on Friday then the Ohio Valley to the Northeast on Saturday and Sunday. The storm looks meager compared to the one before Thanksgiving, but it could still slow or delay travel for some if it tracks through that region and taps into chillier air from the north.
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