Here’s where stormy weather could affect Thanksgiving travel

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The window surrounding Thanksgiving is one of the busiest travel times of the year. The Transportation Security Administration expects 2.5 million air passengers to take flight on Wednesday alone, and that number could rise further this weekend. Nearly 55 million Americans, meanwhile, will travel 50 miles or more. In other words, the weather will be crucial for the next four or five days.

DC Area Forecast: Smooth sailing until Thanksgiving Day, then chance of rain returns

While most pre-Thanksgiving travel should go smoothly, a pair of storm systems could make things difficult in the southern and eastern United States Thursday through Sunday.

In the west, the weather appears generally calm, though Portland and Seattle may see rain — part of the same system that can bring snow to higher elevations.

We’ll outline what to expect in our city-by-city travel forecast.

Ahead of a cold front sweeping east on Wednesday, moisture from the Gulf of Mexico will move north. This will lead to showers and downpours on Thursday, spreading from eastern Texas in the morning and eventually to Arkansas, southern Missouri and Louisiana. Evening showers can creep into Mississippi and West Tennessee.

Moisture streaming north along the front on Thursday evening will bring rain showers to the Ohio Valley, with heavier showers over the south. By Friday, a patchy band of rain will stretch from the Carolinas into Quebec, with light showers along the Interstate 95 corridor in the Mid-Atlantic and New England.

All told, a general 2-3 inches is likely in eastern Texas, with about a half-inch to an inch over most of the south except for the Florida peninsula. A broad tenth to quarter inch will fall as light showers work over the Ohio and Tennessee valleys, with similar amounts in New England. South Carolina could see up to a third of an inch.

On Friday, a storm system will develop over eastern Texas that will track into the Red River and southeastern Oklahoma on Saturday. Ahead of the storm system, warm, moist Gulf air will flow northward. This will allow rain to fall over much of central and eastern Texas on Friday immediately after System 1.

Behind the center of the system, northerly winds will draw in cold air from the north; moisture wrapping in the storm and rising and over this cold air will fall as snow. This could drop tillable snow in parts of the Texas Panhandle and Hill Country on Friday. A winter storm watch is in effect.

This system will then bring rain to the lower Mississippi Valley on Saturday, then to the Ohio Valley, Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and Northeast on Sunday.

Where the weather will be wet and sometimes unstable

  • Chicago: Mostly dry Wednesday through Saturday afternoon as highs cool from near 60 (Wednesday) to the upper 40s (Saturday). The rain arrives Saturday evening until the beginning of Sunday.
  • Oklahoma City: Isolated showers from Wednesday evening to Saturday, but no washing. Highs in the 40s and 50s, with lows in the 30s.
  • Wichita: Isolated to scattered showers Wednesday night through Saturday (and maybe a rogue snowflake), but no washoff. Highs in the 40s, with lows in the 30s. Sunny and close to 50 on Sunday.
  • Washington D.C.: Dry until Thanksgiving. A few showers possible Friday with 50+. Close to 60 on Saturday with partial sunshine before showers return on Sunday.
  • New York City: Sunny Wednesday and Thursday. Showers likely Friday and Sunday with a break and partial sunshine Saturday. Highs in the 50s each of the three days.
  • Boston: Sunny and near 50 on Wednesday, with mid-forties and sunshine on Thursday. Friday, Saturday and Sunday will be in the low to mid 50s, with possible rain Friday and Sunday.
  • Atlanta: 60 until Sunday, when the upper 50 is possible. Showers and/or rain showers Thursday evening through Saturday evening.
  • Charleston: Isolated showers Wednesday and Thursday, with scattered showers Friday and Saturday evening; an isolated shower persists on Sunday. Highs in the upper 60s except near 70 on Saturday.
  • Saint Louis: Low 60s and partly sunny Wednesday. Rain Thursday and Saturday with only scattered showers Friday. Upper 40s to lower 50s. Clearer skies and close to 50 on Sunday.
  • New Orleans: Highs in the lower 70s through Friday, then in the upper 60s. Sunny Wednesday, with showers, thunderstorms and rain Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Perfection Sunday. Heavy rain possible.
  • Dallas: Intermittent rain and thunderstorms possible until Saturday morning. Rainfall totals of 1-2 inches possible. Highs in the upper 50s to lower 60s. The sun returns on Saturday afternoon. Heavy rain possible.
  • Houston: Sunny with highs near 70 on Wednesday. Showers likely Thursday and Friday, with highs dropping from the mid 70s to lows in the mid 60s. Cool and sunny with the mid 60s on Saturday before the 70s return on Sunday. Heavy rain possible.
  • Amarillo, TX: Highs in the 60s with sunshine on Wednesday. High around 40 with mixed precipitation Thursday, with mid-30 and possible snow/rain Friday. The sun returns with less than 50 on Saturday and Sunday.

where it will be nice

The weather will be generally pleasant over the central and northern plains, the Rockies and most of the west, with the exception of Washington and Oregon. Here is an overview of some sunny cities:

  • Denver: Windy with minus 50 degrees Wednesday, then cooler Thursday with an isolated snow shower. Highs in the upper 30s. Sunny and nice with 50s on weekends.
  • Minneapolis: Isolated early morning drizzle on Thanksgiving Day, but otherwise sunshine prevails with temperatures above 30 to 40 lower each day through Sunday.
  • Albuquerque: Sunny with 40s and 50s for highs and lows in the 20s.
  • Phoenix: Sunny with highs around 70 each day and lows in the 40s.
  • Vegas: Sunny with highs in the mid 60s every day and lows in the 40s.
  • San Francisco: Sunny with highs in the mid 60s every day and lows in the upper 40s.
  • Los Angeles: Sunny with highs in the lower 70s each day and lows in the upper 40s. Sundays can be a bit cooler (upper 60s), with some early morning fog.

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