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Last-minute Travel Forecast - and a Snowy Trip Home for me!

We've got you your travel plans covered whether they're today or tomorrow - as for myself, they're looking a bit snowy! Let's first get those maps out and show you the travel trouble spots around the country for this year's Turkey Day travel.

The best news for us is that the Carolinas are looking great for today. Lots of sunshine and nice temperatures will make for dry roadways and at least no weather related delays at the airports. The East Coast is really looking good from north to south today weather-wise in the wake of our latest cold front passage. The travel trouble spots lurk in the Midwest today. Cities like Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Chicago, St. Louis, and Dallas will be impacted by a strong cold front sending snow and wind to the north and strong to severe thunderstorms to the south. Expect delays on both the roads and in the air here. From here, the bad weather will shift east.

If you are among those trying to avoid the travel rush on Wednesday by traveling on Turkey Day itself (myself included), here's how Thanksgiving shakes out. By Thursday morning the cold front will stretch from Ohio to Texas with moderate to heavy rain. In the Northeast, precipitation will begin as snow in parts of Central Pennsylvania making roadways slick.

The system does not make all that much progress during the day, as high pressure in the Northeast acts to somewhat block the system from moving. We'll still see heavy, drenching rains from Michigan to Louisiana along the front with thunderstorms possible. Snows will now be confined to the north and west sides of the system - with bitterly cold conditions on the back side. Travel delays are possible in cities such as Detroit, Indianapolis, Louisville, and Memphis.

I'll be headed out of Wilmington after "Good Morning Carolina" tomorrow on a flight home into Syracuse, New York. Earlier in the week I was concerned that I'd need to deal with snow on the ground Thursday afternoon - but right now the system has slowed enough that most of the day should be dry in Upstate New York, with rain showers moving in around sunset. Optimistically, weather shouldn't play a big factor in my airport adventures - but with flying, you just never know.

Heading into Black Friday is when all this weather finally makes it to the Carolina coast bringing big changes. Ahead of the front we will be wildly warm just like we were on Tuesday. Expect highs in the mid to perhaps upper 70's during the afternoon; but by the evening the rains will arrive. These heavy showers will be the leading edge to MUCH colder air across the East. Looking at the map above, the light blue line represents the freezing mark. By the middle of the weekend, over two-thirds of the nation will see sub-freezing temperatures at some point.

The main weather story once the storm system exits stage right this weekend will be that cold weather and also the first major outbreak of Lake Effect Snows all season. These snows frequently take place during the winter months when cold air passes over the relatively warm waters of the Great Lakes. This warm air over the lakes rises through the cold atmosphere with ease and condenses, creating intense snow squalls. This convection is actually the same process by which we see thunderstorms form in the summertime.

Once I finally get home, I'll be bunkered in "Lake Effect central" for several days. My home is located just east of Lake Ontario, meaning the westerly winds often target my neck of the woods during these Lake Effect Outbreaks. These "snow belt" areas east of the lakes average over 150 inches of snow in a season. It is not rare at all to see days with 18" or more of snow. In fact, I may see that happen this weekend!


This outbreak of Lake Effect looks to be particularly strong partly because of how cold the air mass is moving into the Northeast, but more importantly because of how warm the lakes still are. The most recent temperatures in Lake Ontario average ~48°F. Take air moving overhead that's at least in the lower 30's, and that large 15-20° difference will create very intense snow squalls. The question isn't whether there will be snow squalls; it's where. With these squalls often times only 10-15 miles wide, it all depends on which way the wind blows. 

The forecast map above for early Saturday morning puts the Lake Ontario band (the one to the north) almost directly over my house. If that stays that way for the better part of a few days, I may have fresh pictures of my house like the one below (taken 2007) to show you on Monday:

While it's amazing to watch and I'm fascinated by the snow, I certainly am not rooting for it this go around for this weekend. With traveling around and wanting to see friends and family, it can be more of a headache than anything else.  Not to mention all this warm weather we've been having has made me a total "wimp" as far as snow and cold is concerned! I'll be sure to let you know how my wintry travels go this holiday.

As for yourself, safe travels if you are headed out of town, and have yourself a fantastic Thanksgiving!

- TB


By: Tim Buckley