Storm packing rain and snow to hamper Thanksgiving travel in Midwest, Northeast

Following many weeks of relatively tranquil weather over much of the central and eastern United States, a significant storm that has been on AccuWeather meteorologists' radar will gather rain, snow, wind and some ice just in time for some of the peak travel days ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday. There is also a chance a separate storm could cause trouble for some heading home over the weekend.

Even though the storm will provide some much-needed moisture in areas of abnormally dry to building drought conditions, it will come at a bad time as millions of Americans will be traveling prior to Thanksgiving.

Between 55 and 56 million people will take to the roads, skies and rails to travel during the week-long stretch around Thanksgiving, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA).

AccuWeather meteorologists believe that the greatest negative travel impacts associated with the storm will be into Tuesday in the Midwest and from Tuesday to Tuesday night in the Northeast, but some weather-related travel issues may linger into Wednesday.

The storm ramped up over the South Central states on Monday and Monday night. Severe thunderstorms erupted across western Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas Monday afternoon, and continued eastward into Mississippi on Monday night, bringing torrential downpours, damaging wind gusts, and hail. In addition, there were numerous reports of tornadoes across Louisiana and Mississippi, according to the Storm Prediction Center.


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As the storm continues to move along, so will the rain. The bulk of the disruptive downpours are likely to affect the Pittsburgh and Atlanta metro areas on Tuesday. Locally severe thunderstorms may add to weather-related delays around Atlanta.

Much of Tuesday will be wet in the zone from the central Great Lakes to the Appalachians. Fog will shroud the ridges and when combined with slick roads, dangerous travel conditions may result.

As the storm continues to move northeastward, it will gain some strength and winds are likely to throw another wrench into travel conditions from the mid-Atlantic to the eastern Great Lakes on Tuesday.

"The stiff east-to-southeast winds averaging 25-35 mph with gusts of 40-45 mph can pose a problem at some of the airports from Washington, D.C., to Philadelphia and New York City with the worst conditions likely from late Tuesday afternoon to Tuesday evening," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Tom Kines said. Airline delays are most likely during this time due to winds, drenching rain and poor visibility.

Strong southeasterly winds may trigger sporadic power outages along the I-90 corridor from northeastern Ohio to western New York for a time on Tuesday and Tuesday evening. At the very least, winds blowing across the highway will create difficult travel in this zone.

The same conditions will make for miserable travel on the roads on Tuesday in much the I-80, I-81 and I-95 mid-Atlantic region. The heaviest rain may hold off until late Tuesday afternoon in New York City and until late Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning around Boston. Motorists should expect delays due to this storm. When combined with the high volume of traffic anticipated, any mishap or ponding on some of the highways can lead to major delays and potentially miles of stopped vehicles.

Weather conditions will be much more favorable in the Northeast in the storm's wake on Wednesday in much of the mid-Atlantic and Midwest. The bulk of the rain is likely to move out of Boston Wednesday afternoon, so conditions should improve for the travel surge in the evening prior to Thanksgiving.

Airline passengers should keep in mind that some flights may still be delayed or canceled even after the storm has departed because the storm, with its rain, wind and severe weather, may cause crews and aircraft to be displaced.

However, the storm will have its wintry side as well.

As the rain glides northeastward, it will encounter a colder environment and one that supports snow from parts of northern Pennsylvania and upstate New York to central and northern New England from Tuesday to Tuesday night.

"Motorists should expect some roads to become slippery, especially over the highest elevations in northern Pennsylvania and southern New York, but farther to the north from northern New York to northern New England, more general wintry driving is likely with accumulating snow," Douty said.

There is the risk of a few pockets of slippery travel due to a mixture of snow, sleet and rain in parts of central Pennsylvania for a time on Tuesday morning and midday.

From 3 to 6 inches of snow is forecast to fall on the Adirondacks and Green Mountains, while from 6 to 12 inches is forecast to pile up from central New Hampshire to much of northwestern Maine, where there is an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 15 inches from Tuesday afternoon to Wednesday. The storm and its natural snow will likely have skiers in a good mood leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday.

Some snow will also fall on the northern tier of the storm over the Upper Midwest from parts of northern Minnesota and Wisconsin to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan from late Tuesday to early Wednesday. In these areas, the snow will be mixed with or change to rain at times.

There will be a few pockets of ice associated with the storm, mainly over the interior Northeast. But, rather than the most dangerous form of ice, which is freezing rain, some sleet will occur instead, with a few exceptions.

One area that may experience a glaze of ice for a time on Tuesday morning will be over the mountains from southwestern Pennsylvania to western Maryland and northeastern West Virginia.

Still, forecasters urge motorists to exercise caution when traveling on roads that appear to be wet when temperatures are near freezing. Elevated surfaces, such as bridges and overpasses, as well as areas that are shaded from the sun on a clear day are mostly likely to become icy first.

Since cold air is forecast to pivot northward in the wake of the storm, any lake-effect snow is likely to be brief from Wednesday to Thursday. Temperatures are likely to turn around swiftly at the end of the week.

Not only will much of the Midwest and Northeast be dry on Thanksgiving Day, but so will most of the nation.

AccuWeather meteorologists will be monitoring potential travel trouble for the upcoming weekend when millions begin their venture home or head for the stores following the Thanksgiving holiday.

A storm will drop southward along the Rockies with snow late this week. This same storm is expected to gather moisture over the Gulf of Mexico and swing northeastward later this weekend. Depending on the track of this storm, some areas of the Central and Eastern states will experience another round of travel delays related to rain, thunderstorms and perhaps snow and ice.

Above all, forecasters urge travelers to allow extra time to get to their destination as both the weather and traffic volume surrounding the holidays will add significantly to the commute duration.

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