Winter storm brings chaos to post-Thanksgiving travelas millions of Thanksgiving travelers returning home may encounter severe weather conditions, including snow, leading to traveldelays and complications. While the majority of the West is expected to be unaffected, over a dozen states in the Midwest, Northeast, and around the Great Lakes are under threat, with meteorologists warning of strong snowfall and gusty winds.
The Plains states experienced significant snowfall over the weekend, with Kansas cities reporting record accumulations of up to eight inches. This led to numerous car accidents and a series of travel delays.
Nebraska State Police (NSP) reported that two individuals lost their lives in a collision on Interstate 80 near mile marker 184 on Friday afternoon. Subsequently, a few hours later, NSP announced that another individual lost their life in a separate crash on I-80 near mile marker 211.
Given the potential for disrupted travel, those with flexible schedules are advised to delay their return, particularly because the storms are forecast to hit on the busiest travel day of the year, according to AAA. Almost 3 million people are expected to travel by air on this day, making it the peak travel day.
However, the agency suggests that Monday could be a more viable alternative, as high-pressure systems continue to move. This could offer a better travel experience for those looking to avoid the anticipated challenges associated with adverse weather conditions.
"For many Americans, Thanksgiving and travel go hand in hand, and this holiday, we expect more people on the roads, skies, and seas compared to 2022," said Paula Twidale, Senior Vice President of the federal agency's travel faction, last week.
"Travel demand has been strong all year, and AAA's Thanksgiving forecast reflects that continued desire to get away and spend time with loved ones."
The executive from the agency projected a record-breaking 55.4 million Americans traveling by air, road, and rail in the United States for the holiday season this year, signaling a trend of people putting the pandemic behind them.
Cities such as Chicago, Detroit, and Milwaukee face increased risk on Sunday, with the potential for snowfall enhancements south and east of the Great Lakes. This raises the possibility of isolated higher snowfall amounts in areas of Indiana and Michigan. Even without this phenomenon, meteorologists anticipate that much of the region will see a coating of at least three inches of snow.
Major airport hubs like Minneapolis, Chicago, and Detroit will be impacted, causing disruptions for the approximately 2.9 million airport passengers expected to travel on Sunday, marking an all-time record, according to AAA. These airports all face the looming threat of wintry weather, similar to conditions experienced in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Denver, Minneapolis, and Kansas City earlier in the weekend. Officials in these locations worked tirelessly on Saturday to clear snow and ice from planes.
On Saturday, AccuWeather Meteorologist Brandon Buckingham detailed how the system currently affecting a broad expanse of the Midwest is expected to intensify as it converges with another system heading towards the northeast from Canada.
The same storm that brought the accumulating snow to the Rockies and Plains on Friday and Saturday is expected to join forces with another moving south from Canada. This will bring accumulating snow and slippery travel to the Midwest and Great Lakes on Sunday.- Brandon Buckingham
As per the FAA, approximately 45,000 flights are scheduled for Sunday, with 2,231 already experiencing delays as of 1 pm. A significant number of these delays, reported by flight tracker FlightAware, originated from Chicago's O’Hare International Airport and Chicago MidwayAirport. Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, in proximity to the Great Lakes, also recorded several hundred delays. Several people at an airport waiting for their luggage
At Denver International, the nation's third-busiest airport, snowfall is tapering off after officials reported 700 flights delayed on Saturday alone due to snow during the Thanksgiving weekend.
Beyond the substantial snowfall in Colorado, reaching nearly a foot in some areas, a combination of sleet and freezing rain has affected regions as far south as Texas and as far northwest as Oklahoma and southern Kansas, further impeding travel and resulting in a number of crashes. Unfortunately, at least three fatalities occurred in central Nebraska as a consequence.
Winter storm warnings covered extensive areas of Wyoming, Nebraska, and Kansas, while less severe winter weather advisories extended down to northwest Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle.
More than 100 million people are currently within the affected region, witnessing snowfall from Illinois to Wisconsin and Michigan as early as 9 am on Sunday. By Sunday afternoon, snowfall is expected to diminish across Illinois and Wisconsin but intensify across Michigan, extending to communities in Western New York and Northern Pennsylvania.
Widespread icy conditions on roads and highways throughout these states are anticipated, leading to potentially slower travel times. Experts advise travelers to plan accordingly and consider postponing their plans if feasible.
As the night progresses, the storm, along with the colder air sweeping in behind it, will trigger a round of lake-effect snow downwind of the Great Lakes, persisting into Tuesday. AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Joe Lundberg noted that this phenomenon, occurring when cold air moves across the open waters of the Great Lakes, will bring the coldest temperatures of the season and could result in up to 20 inches of snow in some areas.
With colder air in place across the interior Northeast, some snow will blanket the higher terrain beginning Sunday night. This includes portions of the Adirondacks, the Green and White Mountains, as well as western Maine. As the storm deepens and moves away Monday and Monday night, the coldest air so far this season will be drawn across the Great Lakes. In turn, bands of lake-effect snow will form and disrupt travel into Tuesday.- Joe Lundberg
The majority of the adverse weather is forecasted to shift toward the East by Monday, eventually moving over the Atlantic and affecting Canadian areas such as Ottawa, Montreal, and New Brunswick. Consequently, temperatures along I-80 and northward are anticipated to drop below freezing, creating conditions where most of the precipitation will be in the freezing form.
"Travel in the heaviest snow bands, especially in New York, could become nearly impossible after dark Monday as gusty winds combine with snowfall rates of a few inches per hour to create blizzard-like conditions," added AccuWeather Meteorologist Jake Sojda of the storms' future path.