East coast winter storm threatens to snarl Thanksgiving travel - KMSP-TV

East coast winter storm threatens to snarl Thanksgiving travel

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ACCUWEATHER - A major storm with heavy snow, rain and high winds will hit Thanksgiving travelers hard on Wednesday in the Northeast with 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.

"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.

A strengthening storm will unload windswept rain along the I-95 corridor during the day Wednesday, producing flooding in urban areas and poor visibility.

The worst of the rain will end by the evening from New York City to Richmond but will continue farther north from Hartford, to Boston and Portland, Maine. However, it may take considerable time before airlines can catch up.

A period of high winds Wednesday will not only add to flight delays from New York City to Boston 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 eastern Pennsylvania and the Hudson Valley of New York.

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.

Farther west, much of the precipitation that occurs Wednesday will be in the form of snow from West Virginia to western Pennsylvania, western 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, while some locations will receive a foot of snow or more. Flight delays are likely at Pittsburgh and Buffalo, N.Y., as well as smaller regional airports due to deicing operations, and some flights may be canceled.

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-81. Where fresh snow has fallen, gusty winds will cause blowing and drifting snow in open areas.

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.

There is a chance lake-effect snow briefly swings into part of Chicagoland Wednesday midday.

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

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.

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

READ MORE: http://www.accuweather.com/en/weather-news/thanksgiving-travel-northeast/20290344

By MEGHAN BARR, Associated Press

Thanksgiving travelers scrambled to book earlier flights Tuesday to avoid a sprawling storm bearing down on the East Coast with a messy mix of snow, rain and wind that threatened to snarl one of the busiest travel days of the year and ground giant balloon versions of Snoopy and SpongeBob SquarePants in the Macy's parade.

The characters that soar between Manhattan skyscrapers every year may not lift off Thursday if sustained winds exceed 23 mph and gusts exceed 34 mph, according to city rules enacted after fierce winds in 1997 caused a Cat in the Hat balloon to topple a light pole and seriously injure a spectator.

Current forecasts call for sustained winds of 20 mph and gusts of 36 mph.

"At this time, it is too early to make any determinations on the flight of the giant balloons," said Macy's spokesman Orlando Veras. "On Thanksgiving morning, Macy's works closely with the NYPD, who, based on real time weather data and the official regulations determine if the balloons will fly and at what heights."

Balloons have been grounded only once in the parade's 87-year history, when bad weather kept them from flying in 1971. They're set to be inflated in Manhattan on Wednesday evening.

Meanwhile, meteorologists warned that the storm, which has moved across the country, would almost certainly upset holiday travel plans on Wednesday for those hoping to visit loved ones in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast. Many travelers were moving to earlier flights, taking advantage of airlines' policies to waive their normal change fees.

Lisa Jablon was originally supposed to fly Delta from New York City to Syracuse, N.Y., on Wednesday at 9:39 a.m. But after following the storm's movements, she decided to jump on the last flight out Tuesday night.

"I'm flying up to spend the holiday with my boyfriend's family and I didn't want to get stuck," Jablon said. "The rain seems to be better off tonight than it looks tomorrow morning."

The good news is that the storm is supposed to pass through the Northeast before Thanksgiving Day, with the weather mostly clearing up by Wednesday evening.

Most airlines are hoping the storms won't be too severe, allowing them to continue operating a nearly full schedule with few cancellations, but likely a lot of delays, said Daniel Baker, CEO of FlightAware, a global flight tracking service.

"Cancellations are used as a good, preventative measure to avoid cascading delays that can negatively impact travelers thousands of miles away," Baker said.

Heavy rain and high winds would affect travel by air and road in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic and could have a ripple effect on airports with departing and originating flights elsewhere.

Heavy rain and breezy conditions were in the forecast Wednesday from the Carolinas to the Northeast, with ice and snow a possibility in the Appalachians, western Pennsylvania and western New York.

The storm system, already blamed for at least 11 deaths, could also spawn isolated tornadoes in the Florida Panhandle. The Southeast is set to suffer soaking rain in the coming days, primarily in Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky.

"It couldn't have come at a worse time," said meteorologist Tim Morrin of the National Weather Service. "Visibility will be restricted not only by the rain and wash from other cars, but from the fog."

After arguing with American Airlines on Tuesday, David Short was able to board a flight from New York City to Dallas a day earlier than planned. The airline initially told him it would cost $2,000 to get on the earlier flight, but a few hours later a representative told him the airline was offering flight-change waivers at no cost.

"It was definitely very frustrating and stressful, but it's all working out," Short said.

This holiday will likely see the most air travelers since 2007, according to Airlines for America, the industry's trade and lobbying group, with the busiest day being Sunday, an estimated 2.56 million passengers. Wednesday is expected to be the second-busiest, with 2.42 million passengers.


Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Scott Mayerowitz and Deepti Hajela in New York City, John Raby in Charleston, W.Va., Jill Bleed in Little Rock, Ark., and Diana Heidgerd, David Koenig and David Warren in Dallas.

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