Thanksgiving Week Travel Weather: Where to Expect Delays

November 20, 2011; 2:14 AM ET
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For the tens of millions who will be hitting the road or taking to the skies to visit friends and family during the week of Thanksgiving, the weather can make or break travel plans.

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This year, the major concerns for weather-related travel disruptions during Thanksgiving week are severe thunderstorms and pockets of heavy rain, wind and perhaps locally severe thunderstorms. However, there will also be a few areas that have to deal with hefty snow.

According to Expert Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski, "The week of Thanksgiving will be remembered for warm weather in most areas, but there will be areas of rain and fog, as well as a few pockets of snow and cold air."

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While most travelers would gladly take rain over snow, even wet weather can bring trouble when there is a high volume of vehicles.

"Rain, fog and blowing spray producing poor visibility and longer stopping distance have the potential for disaster in bumper-to-bumper traffic moving at highway speeds," Sosnowski added.

Airline passengers could also face some weather-related delays and cancellations from the weather, in addition to slow-downs caused by high volume and security.

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Here is a look at what to expect region by region across the country:

Severe Weather a Concern for Southern Plains, Mid-Mississippi Valley

The potential for travel disruptions will be high in the southern Plains and the Southeast this afternoon through midweek, as rounds of strong thunderstorms and heavy rain invade the region.

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Dallas, Oklahoma City, Kansas City, St. Louis and Memphis are some of the region's big airport hubs that could be affected by the adverse weather and experience delays Monday into Tuesday. meteorologists are concerned about thunderstorms in this zone becoming severe into the first half of next week. Tornadoes are also a possibility. Be sure to keep checking back with for more details on the severe weather potential.

Locally severe thunderstorms will first fire over a corridor from northeastern Texas through central Arkanas this afternoon. However, a more widespread outbreak will wait for Monday. Expert Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski warns that the severe weather may target southern Oklahoma and northern Texas, including Dallas, Monday. The threat is expected to shift farther east through Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and into Mississippi into Tuesday.

Motorists will also have to monitor the situation, as thunderstorms and heavy, windswept rain are likely to cause major slow-downs at times on highways and interstates. Visibility will be greatly reduced in downpours, while ponding on roadways increases the risk of hydroplaning.

Interstates that could be affected include I-20, I-27, I-35, I-40, I-44, I-45, I-55 and I-70 from northern Texas and Oklahoma into Missouri.

Stormy Weather also Threatens Midwest, East

While a corridor of stormy weather will be set up from the southern Plains into the Midwest and Northeast for a time early next week, it's the late Tuesday into Wednesday time frame when travel disruptions will be most likely in the Midwest and East.

Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis and Cincinnati are all cities that could be affected in the Midwest. However, there is some uncertainty in how far north the rain will spread.

Delays could also develop in the East later Tuesday into Wednesday as rain spreads through the Northeast and thunderstorms rumble across the Southeast.

"Major airports like those in D.C., Philadelphia and NYC could be impacted by rain and thunderstorms," warned Senior Meteorologist Henry Margusity. Delays could develop as a result of fog and low ceilings alone.

Travel over New England, upstate New York and northern Pennsylvania could be a challenge if the storm bringing rain along the mid-Atlantic coast tracks more to the north and west.

"If so, trip-disrupting snow could affect parts of the I-80, I-81, I-87, I-90 and I-95 corridors in the Northeast later Tuesday into Wednesday," Sosnowski said.

The track of the storm next week is questionable at this time, but we will know more by early next week.

As with the thunderstorms and heavy rain expected to develop in the southern Plains, the stormy weather in the Midwest and Northeast could cause slow-downs on the roads with reduced visibility and a risk of hydroplaning.

Interstates that could be affected include I-55, I-57, I-64, I-65, I-70, I-71, I-75, I-76, I-79, I-80, I-83 and I-95 from the Midwest into the Northeast and mid-Atlantic.

Snow, Rain and Wind Spell Trouble for West

Storm systems will continue slamming into the Pacific Northwest through next week, progressively having a greater, more widespread impact on the region.

By the middle or end of next week, it appears heavy rain and mountain snow will spread farther south through California and east into the Rockies and Intermountain West.

Early indications are that the biggest threat for travel-snarling snow will be in the higher elevations of the Cascades and Sierra Nevada. I-80's Donner Pass appears to be at greatest risk for this Wednesday into Thursday.

The good news is that the cold air that will be in place across the West to start next week will be quickly erased. This means snow levels will also be on the rise.

Therefore, the greatest disruptions to travel through the Cascades will likely be limited to the higher, less-traveled passes. However, travel could still become problematic for a time through I-90's Snoqualmie Pass in Washington.

Heavy rain and gusty winds could be a problem for Seattle and Portland, especially during the first half of next week, with airport and traffic delays. San Francisco and Sacramento could be affected later in the week as well.

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Interstates that could be affected include I-5, I-80, I-82, I-84 and I-90.

If you are hitting the road next week, make sure your car is in good shape.

Worn-out tires can be especially dangerous in high-speed driving. Inadequate tread depth greatly reduces traction and stopping distance in not only snow, but also rainy conditions.

If you will be venturing through the passes of the West, traction chains could be a big asset for your vehicle.

Weather-Related Airport Delays Thanksgiving Week

AirportMon. 11/21Tue. 11/22Wed. 11/23Thu. 11/24
Boston NoneNonePossiblePossible
New York JFKPossibleNonePossiblePossible
Washington DullesPossibleNonePossiblePossible
Salt Lake CityNoneNoneNonePossible
San FranciscoNoneNonePossiblePossible
Los AngelesNoneNoneNonePossible


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