Hitting the Road for Thanksgiving? Weather May Complicate Your Travels

Posted: November 18, 2021 3:04 pm

Although it is still a week away, it is never too early to start thinking about Thanksgiving week travel. Compounding the normal issue of potentially precarious weather during this time of the year is the fact that travel is expected to approach pre-pandemic levels this year as Americans become more anxious to visit with loved ones that they have not seen in a long time.

The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is historically considered to be one of the busiest travel days of the year and 2021 will be no different. Forecasters are already warning that the potential of messy weather conditions to start the week may complicate the efforts of Americans trying to get ahead of the busy travel day.

Two Potential Issues

There are two potential weather systems that may cause issues throughout the Midwest and Northeast in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. First up will be a winter storm forecast to take root over the central Plains on Sunday. This storm will then expand to the northeast toward the Great Lakes region on Monday. By Tuesday, the storm will be positioned over central Ontario and into Quebec. The storm is expected to gain strength as it moves through the Great Lakes, potentially making it a bomb cyclone that can cause serious damage.

The system is predicted to bring bands of heavy snow to some parts of northern Wisconsin and Michigan as well as into Minnesota. The system will then dump snow in the central parts of Ontario and Quebec, triggering the development of gusty winds in the Midwest and the Northeast as a result.

Lake-Effect Snow a Possibility

Right about this same time, new bands of lake-effect snow and snow squalls are forecast to develop across a large area stretching from northern Indiana and Michigan and into some parts of West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New York state. These bands of snow are most likely to occur on Monday and Tuesday.

The southern states will not be immune to the effects of this system either. While the snow will stay to the north, the cold temperatures will dip farther to the south and into the Appalachians. As the cold front moves through, there is a strong possibility of torrential rain and severe thunderstorms popping up along the Interstate 95 corridor.

Second System on Tap

In addition to the wintry storm to start the week, forecasters are also watching the likely development of a secondary system that will set up along the Atlantic coast at about the same time. There is still a great deal of uncertainty surrounding this system and how quickly it may develop and with how much intensity.

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A quickly developing storm will likely translate to a wet event for the mid-Atlantic coast that could then move up through New England with the potential of becoming a bomb cyclone. Should this happen, New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, and Baltimore will probably avoid the heaviest of the rains with the greater amounts falling in northern New England.

Flooding could be a major concern in this region beginning late Monday and continuing through Tuesday. This could spell trouble for motorists looking to get a head start on their Thanksgiving holiday travels.

What About Snow?

The coastal storm also has the chance to produce several inches of snow in the higher terrains. The greatest threat of snow will come to upstate New York and into Vermont and New Hampshire.

The central Appalachians will likely experience a change from rain to snowfall as the system socks in the region.

Forecasters also say that there is a possibility that the coastal system may form but move out to sea as it weakens. Should this happen, there will be no chance of a damaging bomb cyclone. However, the mid-Atlantic and New England would still likely see rain on Monday and early Tuesday before dry air moves in by Wednesday.

Regardless of what track the coastal system takes, the interior Northeast needs to be prepared for the high possibility of heavy lake-effect snow and adverse road conditions on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Winds Likely to be an Issue

Forecasters are warning that the gusty winds could be a major issue with both storm systems. Widespread gusty winds will be common all throughout the central and eastern US with these storms. This could present challenges for airports ramping up operations leading up to the busy travel day on Wednesday. This is particularly true if any of the major East Coast city airports experience high winds or thunderstorms.

There is also a high possibility of severe thunderstorms in the South Central US and into the Atlantic coast areas as the first cold front moves through on Monday. These storms could deliver another round of power outages, similar to what happened last weekend in the Northeast.