Storm Causes Major Thanksgiving Travel Mess Wednesday

By By Alex Sosnowski, expert senior meteorologist
November 28, 2013, 3:47:21 PM EST

A major storm with heavy rain, snow and high winds was hitting Thanksgiving travelers hard on Wednesday in the Northeast with potential ripple effects for flights elsewhere in the nation.

The timing of the storm could not come at a worst time with AAA projecting 43.4 million travelers during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

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"The Wednesday before Thanksgiving will be the busiest single day of travel with 37 percent of travelers departing for trips Nov. 27," AAA stated in a press release.


I-95 Heavy Rain, High Winds and a Freeze

A strengthening storm will continue to unload windswept rain along a large part of the I-95 corridor Wednesday, producing flooding in urban areas and poor visibility.

The worst of the rain will end south to north during the afternoon from Richmond to Philadelphia but will continue well into the evening farther north from Hartford, to Boston and Portland, Maine. Rain will end toward evening around New York City. However, it may take considerable time before airlines throughout the region can catch up.

A period of high winds Wednesday will not only add to flight delays from coastal Massachusetts to Maine but can also cause property damage, power outages and down trees.


The rain can end as a period of snow or flurries from central Virginia to southeastern Pennsylvania, northern New Jersey, the Hudson Valley of New York and western Connecticut.

Motorists and pedestrians should use caution Wednesday night. While gusty winds will allow some surfaces to dry off, falling temperatures could lead to icy spots on untreated areas.

Appalachian, Eastern Great Lakes Snowstorm

Farther west, much of the precipitation that occurs Wednesday afternoon will be in the form of snow from West Virginia and western Virginia to western and northeastern Pennsylvania, upstate New York, part of Ontario and southern Quebec. This includes the I-79, I-80 and I-90 corridors.


Motorists should expect very slow, slippery travel and possible road closures in this area. Parts of eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania have received 10 inches of snow from the storm. Flight delays are possible at Pittsburgh and Buffalo, N.Y., as well as smaller regional airports due to deicing operations, and some flights may be canceled.

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As temperatures fall in this area during the afternoon and evening, any untreated wet and slushy areas will freeze, adding to the dangers for motorists, including along I-80 and I-81. Where fresh snow has fallen, gusty winds will cause blowing and drifting snow in open areas.

Lake-Effect Snow

During and after the Northeast storm pulls away Wednesday into Wednesday night, bands of heavy lake-effect snow will make for slippery travel and local whiteouts.


The lake-effect snow is most likely in portions of western and northern Michigan, northwestern Indiana, northeastern Ohio, upstate New York, western Pennsylvania, part of West Virginia and western Maryland.

The same freezing issues can affect areas missed by the steady snow from the storm later Wednesday into Wednesday night as temperatures plummet.

Gusty Winds in the South

In the wake of the storm in the South, the return of cold air will be accompanied by gusty winds Wednesday.

The storm was ending as a bit of snow, flurries or a rain/snow mix in portions of western North Carolina.


Winds gusting in the vicinity of 40 mph into Wednesday evening can lead to flight delays from Atlanta to Charlotte, N.C., and Norfolk, Va.

In portions of the South, the coldest Thanksgiving Day in decades follows the storm.


The weather will be improving in the South and will be fair over much of the balance of the nation Wednesday. However, any aircraft and crews delayed from the Northeast could have a negative impact on the timeliness of flights elsewhere into the Thanksgiving weekend.

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