Thanksgiving travel: Most areas of US to dodge major weather-related issues with exception a few pockets of snowfall, rain

By Alex Sosnowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
November 16, 2018, 11:59:33 PM EST


The overall weather pattern is looking much less stormy for millions that will be taking to the roads and the skies ahead of Thanksgiving starting this weekend across the United States.

Around Thanksgiving, from Wednesday, Nov. 21, to Sunday, Nov. 25, the American Automobile Association (AAA) is projecting that 54.3 million will travel 50 miles or more away from home.

The estimate is up 2.5 million from last year and will be the greatest in more than a dozen years, AAA stated in a press release. The sheer volume of vehicles on the road in congested metro areas may cause travel time to double, triple or quadruple.

The storm that brought a broad area of rain, ice and snow to the central and eastern part of the nation Thursday and Friday should be the caboose in the recent train of large storms and widespread travel disruptions.

Static AP Train Station

Passengers stand beneath an electronic signboard in New York's Penn Station as they wait to board a train, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)


However, there will be small-scale weather concerns moving forward leading up to Thanksgiving Day.

Cold air to surrender in South, retake the battlefield in central and eastern US

The broad area of abnormally cold conditions will shrink in size in the days leading up to Thanksgiving.

Temperatures are forecast to moderate to somewhat more seasonable levels across the South.

There will also be some days where temperatures approach average in the Midwest and Northeast. However, people across the northern half of the Central and Eastern states should expect day-to-day temperature fluctuations.

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Consult the free AccuWeather app for the latest temperature and weather trends at your travel destination and points along the way.

Disruptive snowfall will not be widespread

The persistent cold and early-season snowfall in the Rockies, Northeast and Upper Midwest have allowed may ski resorts to open early. Both have likely stoked interest in a potential Thanksgiving ski trip.

Static AP Denver Airport

Travelers queue up at a security checkpoint with a mural in the background at Denver International Airport Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)


A southward press of cold air is forecast to produce a swath of snow over the Rockies and High Plains, including the Interstate 25 corridor this weekend.

As the cold air advances, accumulating snow and slippery travel will shift from Idaho, Montana and the Dakotas on Friday and Friday night to Wyoming and western Nebraska during Friday night to Saturday and Colorado and western Kansas from Saturday to early Sunday.

Denver is not only an airport connection for skiing ventures in the region, but also a major airport hub for cross-country travel. Enough snow may fall during part of this weekend to lead to airline delays and slippery conditions on the roads.

Static AP Traffic

Heavy traffic is seen on an expressway near O'Hare airport in Chicago, Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)


The same press of cold air may trigger a quick shot of light snow farther to the east this weekend over the Upper Midwest and interior Northeast. Accumulations will tend to be spotty in nature, including along the I-80 and I-90 corridors from Chicago to Cleveland and Buffalo, New York. However, even a small amount of snow can make for slippery travel and lead to airline delays due to deicing operations.

It is possible that this patch of spotty light snow organizes a bit more to produce a light moderate snowfall over northern New York state and northern New England during early next week. However, that is far from a certainty at this point.

Static US Early Next Week


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Rain may gather in Texas, south central US next week

As travel ramps up closer to Thanksgiving Day, an area of rain may grow in size over South Texas and expand northward from Monday to Wednesday.

Static Travel Wednesday 3 pm


How heavy and how extensive that rain area becomes is not set in stone. However, there is at least the possibility of wet roads and perhaps minor airline delays in Houston from time to time during Monday to Wednesday.

The rain may push eastward toward New Orleans by Thanksgiving Day.

However, for those with flights to or from Dallas, Atlanta, Orlando, Florida, and Charlotte, North Carolina, few, if any, direct weather-related travel problems are anticipated through Thanksgiving Day.

AccuWeather's D3 Data Driven Decisions analytics group predicts travel conditions based on slope, visibility, rain, snow and ice.

AccuWeather's D3 Data Driven Decisions analytics group predicts travel conditions based on slope, visibility, rain, snow and ice.

AccuWeather's D3 Data Driven Decisions analytics group predicts travel conditions based on slope, visibility, rain, snow and ice.

AccuWeather's D3 Data Driven Decisions analytics group predicts travel conditions based on slope, visibility, rain, snow and ice.

AccuWeather's D3 Data Driven Decisions analytics group predicts travel conditions based on slope, visibility, rain, snow and ice.

AccuWeather's D3 Data Driven Decisions analytics group predicts travel conditions based on slope, visibility, rain, snow and ice.

AccuWeather's D3 Data Driven Decisions analytics group predicts travel conditions based on slope, visibility, rain, snow and ice.


Rain may reach Pacific Coast states

For those traveling to California, there may still be smoke and unhealthy air quality from ongoing wildfires.

Static AP SFO Smoke

A ferry boat makes its way toward Alcatraz Island as the skyline in the background is obscured by wildfire smoke and haze Monday, Nov. 12, 2018, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)


The aforementioned change in the weather pattern may also lead to an opportunity or two for rain along the Pacific coast, including in California.

While rain is not normally a welcomed idea during busy travel times and near the holiday, the risk of wildfires is an ongoing danger. Any rain or moisture with a lack of strong winds would greatly favor firefighting efforts and reduce the risk of new fires igniting.

Depending on the forward speed and strength of storms over the Pacific Ocean, there is a chance that some rain and drizzle spins ashore along the West Coast spanning Wednesday to Friday of next week.

While this rain is not a certainty this far out, there is a greater chance of some wet weather in California, as opposed to Oregon and Washington, at this time. Coinciding with that potential comes the possibility of minor airline delays in San Francisco and Los Angeles, as well as wet roads that would require longer travel times.

The presence of mild air may restrict any snow to the high country of the Sierra Nevada.

AccuWeather will continue to monitor the areas of rain and snow across the nation and highlight any weather-related travel issues in the days leading up to Thanksgiving.

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