It’s that time of the year when airports and highways are abundantly crowded as hosts of travelers make their yearly pilgrimage for turkey and stuffing. A pre-Thanksgiving storm may make travel more difficult for many as some regions register severe thunderstorms, gusty winds, heavy rain and even snow at some high elevations.
A storm system that is developing over the central United States on Monday morning will send a “wave of inclement weather through the eastern two-thirds of the country through the next couple of days,” forecasters with the Weather Prediction Center said.
Whether wintry precipitation or just plain wet weather, the storm system could impact travel during one of the busiest travel days of the year, as millions take to the skies 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, which represents an 11.5 percent increase from last year. In the New York area alone, which could be on the path of the storm weather, the four major airports were expecting 3.1 million passengers through Monday next week.
Some 49.1 million people were projected to drive to their Thanksgiving destinations, which would be a 1.7 percent increase from 2022, according to the AAA. The busiest road travel days were expected to be Wednesday and the Sunday after Thanksgiving.
And yet another 750,000 others were going to travel by rail in the seven-day period that started on Sunday, Amtrak said.
Here is when to expect the weather and where it could affect those travel plans.
Severe storms in the South
As the system evolves and moves toward the Lower Mississippi Valley, there is a risk for severe storms from East Texas and parts of Louisiana this afternoon and moving into portions of Mississippi and Alabama overnight on Monday.
Tornadoes, some of which could be strong, high winds and hail are all possible during this period as these thunderstorms develop over the region.
The threat of severe storms will decrease on Tuesday but an isolated tornado could still occur from Georgia into the Carolinas.
Wind, rain and some winter weather in the Northeast
Widespread showers and thunderstorms stretching from the South to the Midwest may occur on Tuesday as the storm system moves quickly toward the Northeast in the evening hours.
On Friday, Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York urged caution ahead of Thanksgiving as “extreme winter weather” was expected to affect holiday travel plans across Western New York and the North Country.
While those earlier forecasts might have hinted at some winter weather disruptions this week, it doesn’t look like the impact will be as extreme.
Some areas could be cold enough to support some wet snow over the upper Midwest early on Tuesday, reaching eastward toward interior parts of New England by Tuesday night. There could also be some freezing rain possible, especially for the higher elevations.
The major metro areas along the East Coast will mainly see rain and wind from Tuesday evening through Wednesday morning. Such weather would only cause a minor disruption to air traffic on a typical day, but its combination with an increase in volume from holiday travel means there is a chance of longer delays on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning at major airports in the Northeast.
Most of the unsettled weather will have pushed off the East Coast by Wednesday afternoon, leaving a tranquil Thanksgiving Day across most of the United States — and giving people something to be thankful for, even if it is a little bit delayed.
Steven Moity contributed reporting.