East Coast travelers are being put on alert that the potential exists for a winter storm to unfold on Wednesday, the busiest travel day of the year.
The culprit for any headaches or nightmares for travelers trying to reach their Thanksgiving Day destinations will be a storm system set to ride up or parallel the East Coast at midweek.
How close the storm tracks to the coast will determine how expansive travel impacts will be.
The storm will initially be responsible for spreading steady rain and embedded thunderstorms across the Florida Peninsula on Tuesday through Tuesday evening.
Tuesday night through the start of Thanksgiving, the storm will turn northward and impact the rest of the East Coast.
Slow travel, both on the ground and in the air, can be expected in the Southeast on Wednesday along the I-95 corridor, as well as in Miami, Florida; Charleston, South Carolina; Raleigh, North Carolina; and Norfolk, Virginia.
Farther to the north, the storm’s impacts on the mid-Atlantic and Northeast will depend on its exact track and intensity along the East Coast.
There is growing concern for the storm to be strengthening and tracking close enough to the coast for an expansive area of heavy rain and snow to create travel nightmares in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast.
The heavy rain would alone cause issues for travelers by increasing the threat of downpours and water ponding on roadways, while airline passengers should prepare for delays.
Enough cold air will be in place for the rain to fall as, mix with or change in snow in many communities in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast. Such a storm could drop a swath of substantial and disruptive snow from Virginia’s I-81 corridor to New England.
Latest indications put places west of the Northeast’s I-95 corridor at risk for six inches or more of snow, which would create treacherous conditions on roads and flight cancellations. Snow in this scenario would even fall and accumulate in Washington, D.C., New York City and Boston.
“The storm should rapidly strengthen off the coast of New England Wednesday night, leading to strong and gusty winds, especially near the coast. This would lead to some blowing and drifting of the snow, making travel Wednesday night very difficult,” stated AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Ben Noll as he discussed the impacts in this storm scenario.
“There is also an increasing likelihood for a swath of heavy snow stretching from eastern Pennsylvania through New York’s Hudson Valley and across much of New England before all is said and done.
Some places across the Hudson Valley and New England could even see snow totals exceed a foot.
Travelers in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast planning to head to their Thanksgiving Day destinations on Wednesday should continue to check back with AccuWeather.com for the latest on this storm and start considering travel alternatives in the event this major travel-disrupting scenario unfolds.
In this solution, conditions across central and northern New England would be better for travelers in the morning than the afternoon hours on Wednesday as conditions would then be deteriorating.
While concern is mounting for a more impactful storm to threaten the mid-Atlantic and Northeast, there is still a possibility that the storm tracks farther offshore and spares some travelers.
A weaker storm that remains far enough offshore would not draw in as much cold air, leading to a mainly rain event to spread up the mid-Atlantic and Northeast coasts on Wednesday and Wednesday night.
The greatest potential for nuisance snow in this scenario would be north and west of I-95 in New England.
The best scenario for Thanksgiving travelers would be if the storm stays far enough offshore for rain to only graze the immediate coast.
AAA projects that 46.3 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the Thanksgiving weekend, the highest volume for the holiday since 2007 and a 4.2 percent increase over last year.
As far as Thanksgiving Day itself, any storm will be departing the Northeast with improving conditions along the I-95 corridor.
The strength and how quick the storm departs will determine any impacts on the balloons in New York City’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. While winds will be lessening during the day, winds that could prove to be too strong to allow the balloons to fly would howl on Thursday morning if the storm is slower to depart.