It’s that time of year when airports and highways are crowded as many travelers make their annual pilgrimage for turkey and stuffing. A storm leading up to Thanksgiving could make travel more difficult for many, as some areas see severe thunderstorms, gusty winds, heavy rain and even snow at some high elevations.
A storm system developing over the central United States Monday morning will send a “wave of severe weather across the eastern two-thirds of the country over the next few days,” Weather Prediction Center forecasters said.
Whether it’s winter precipitation or just wet weather, the storm system could impact travel during one of the busiest travel days of the year, as millions of people take off 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, representing an 11.5 percent increase from last year. In the New York area alone, which could be in the storm’s path, the four major airports were expecting 3.1 million passengers through Monday of next week.
According to AAA, some 49.1 million people are expected to drive to their Thanksgiving destination, which would represent a 1.7% increase from 2022. The busiest road travel days are expected to be Wednesday and the Sunday after Thanksgiving.
And another 750,000 people were expected to travel by train during the seven-day period that began Sunday, Amtrak said.
Here’s when to expect the weather and where it could affect your travel plans.
Strong storms in the South
As the system evolves and moves toward the Lower Mississippi Valley, there is a risk of severe storms coming from east Texas and parts of Louisiana this afternoon and moving toward parts of Mississippi and of Alabama on Monday night.
Tornadoes, some of which could be strong, high winds and hail are possible during this time as these thunderstorms develop over the area.
The threat for severe storms will diminish Tuesday, but an isolated tornado could still occur from Georgia to the Carolinas.
Wind, rain and some winter conditions in the Northeast
Widespread showers and thunderstorms extending from the South to the Midwest could occur Tuesday as the storm system quickly moves northeastward in the evening.
Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York on Friday urged caution ahead of Thanksgiving as “extreme winter conditions” are expected to affect holiday travel plans in Western New York and the Upstate.
While these earlier forecasts may have hinted at winter weather disruptions this week, it doesn’t appear the impact will be that extreme.
Some areas could be cold enough to support wet snow across the upper Midwest early Tuesday, reaching east into interior New England by Tuesday evening. There could also be freezing rain, especially at higher elevations.
Major metro areas on the East Coast will experience mostly rain and wind Tuesday evening through Wednesday morning. Such weather conditions would cause only minor disruption to air traffic on a typical day, but its combination with an increase in holiday travel volume means there is a risk of longer delays Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning at major airports in the Northeast.
Most of the unsettled weather will have left the East Coast by Wednesday afternoon, leaving a quiet Thanksgiving Day across most of the United States — and giving people something to be thankful for, even if it’s a little delayed.
Steven Moity reports contributed.