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Thanksgiving travel forecast: Northwest, Great Lakes to bear brunt of nation’s poor weather

By Faith Eherts, AccuWeather meteorologist
November 20, 2017, 8:04:40 AM EST

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With nearly 51 million Americans predicted to travel for Thanksgiving this week, the Pacific Northwest and Great Lakes regions will face the highest threat of delays.

Forecasters were initially concerned with a major storm unfolding this week in the eastern United States. That threat has since diminished, to the advantage of millions of travelers and the road maintenance crews and airlines responsible for ensuring their safe voyage.

Tues travel 11/20

Pacific Northwest to face disruptively wet and windy conditions

Instead, those traveling to, from or through the Pacific Northwest will need to think carefully about their travel plans.

A series of storms are poised to batter the area this week, bringing gusty winds to cities such as Portland, Oregon and Seattle, increasing the chance of airline delays. Any delays at Seattle-Tacoma or Portland International airports could lead to airline delays at other hubs as well.

“Rainfall totals in those areas could range from 1 to 3 inches with localized amounts up to 5 inches, especially across coastal Washington, spanning Tuesday through Thursday,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Brett Rathbun said.

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Rathbun warns that this could lead to localized flooding. Motorists should alter their routes if flooded roadways are encountered.

Downed trees and power lines may also jeopardize the safety of routes, especially in wooded areas and on secondary roads.

The warmer nature of these systems will limit snowfall to only the highest elevations of the northern Cascades, Bitterroots and Wyoming Rockies.

Wed travel 11/20

Lake-effect snow to snarl highway travel in Upper Midwest, Northeast

The other area of concern in the U.S. will be the Great Lakes region.

A burst of cold air spilling down from Canada is expected to promote streams of lake-effect snow showers. This will create the potential for snow squalls, whiteout conditions and slick roads downwind of the Great Lakes for a short time during the middle of the week.

This feature is anticipated to be quick moving, allowing travel conditions to improve throughout the day on Wednesday.

How close a storm attempts to form along the East Coast will determine whether clouds and rain get thrown back toward the Northeast I-95 corridor around midweek.

Thanksgiving Outlook 11.19 AM

Otherwise, cold, gusty weather and scattered rain showers will have localized impacts on travel in the northern and southeastern U.S., respectively.

“Those traveling across North Dakota on Wednesday will want to be on alert for a brief period of snow, sleet or freezing rain which could create slick spots on roadways,” Rathbun said.

Dry, calm and seasonable conditions spanning the rest of the central Plains will make for smooth travel through the middle of the country this week.

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