It’s that time of year when airports and highways are packed with people as throngs of travelers make their annual pilgrimage in search of turkey and stuffing. A pre-Thanksgiving storm can make travel difficult for many, as some regions see severe thunderstorms, gusty winds, heavy rain and even snow at some high elevations.
A storm system developing over the central United States on Monday morning will send a “wave of severe weather across the eastern two-thirds of the country over the next several days,” Weather Prediction Center meteorologists said. .
Whether it’s wintry precipitation or just wet weather, the storm system could impact travel during one of the busiest days of the year, when millions of people take to the skies to break bread with family and friends.
The Transportation Security Administration expects about 30 million passengers to fly between this Friday and the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, an increase of 11.5 percent from last year. In the New York area alone, which could be in the path of the storm, the four major airports were expecting 3.1 million passengers through Monday of next week.
About 49.1 million people are projected to drive to their Thanksgiving destinations, which would be a 1.7 percent increase from 2022, according to AAA. The busiest highway traffic days were expected to be the Wednesday and Sunday after Thanksgiving.
And another 750,000 more were scheduled to travel by train in the seven-day period that began Sunday, Amtrak said.
Here’s when to expect the weather and where it could affect those travel plans.
Strong storms in the south
As the system evolves and moves into the Lower Mississippi Valley, there is a risk of severe storms moving into eastern Texas and parts of Louisiana this afternoon and moving into parts of Mississippi and Alabama overnight Monday.
Tornadoes, some of which could be strong, strong winds and hail, are possible during this period as these storms develop over the region.
The threat of severe thunderstorms will decrease on Tuesday, but an isolated tornado could still occur from Georgia into the Carolinas.
Wind, rain and some winter weather in the Northeast
Widespread showers and thunderstorms extending from the South into the Midwest may occur Tuesday as the storm system moves rapidly northeastward in the afternoon hours.
On Friday, Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York urged caution ahead of Thanksgiving as “extreme winter weather” was expected to impact holiday travel plans across Western New York and the North Country.
While those earlier forecasts might have hinted at some winter weather disruptions this week, it doesn’t look like the impact will be that extreme.
Some areas could be cold enough to support some wet snow over the upper Midwest early Tuesday, reaching eastward into interior parts of New England Tuesday night. Freezing rain could also occur, especially in higher elevations.
Major metropolitan areas along the East Coast will see mostly rain and wind Tuesday night into Wednesday morning. This weather would only cause minor disruption to air traffic on a normal day, but its combination with an increase in holiday travel volume means there is the potential for longer delays Tuesday night and Wednesday morning in the main airports in the northeast.
Most of the unsettled weather will have moved off the East Coast by Wednesday afternoon, leaving a quiet Thanksgiving for most of the United States and giving people something to be thankful for, even if it’s delayed. a bit.
Steven Moity contributed with reports.