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Uh oh... Travel Troubles for Turkey Day?

Whether you're headed over the river or through the woods, if you're going out of town this Thanksgiving there's a good chance you may run into some travel headaches. We're looking into the crystal ball right now and things are looking very active late next week, especially across the northern half of the country. Will it leave you stranded? Too early to say for sure -- but let's take a look at what the early indications are.

I should perhaps preface all of this with a disclaimer of sorts. These predictions 7 to 10 days out with complicated weather systems are just that - predictions. If anything what we're assessing right now are the trends in the weather pattern, not exact highs and lows or storm positions. One of my old professors used to call the forecast period beyond Day-5 "Fantasy Land". Which to a large extent, is true. But that doesn't also mean you can't at least make some valuable conclusions about where the weather is headed. So, with that out of the way, let's take a look into "Fantasy Land" and see how Thanksgiving travel may be impacted wherever you may be going.

Ok. We'll start out with the weather set-up for the near term before we head off into the long term look toward the holiday itself. Heading into this weekend, a large and dominant area of high pressure will park itself over top of the Southeast. This will mean great news for our forecast here in NC - which is why you see an abundance of sunny icons in our 7-Day. Looking elsewhere, the Jet Stream is largely to the north, with some ridging in the East and a small trough in the West. A storm system will ride along the Jet Stream, affecting the northern Great Lakes this weekend - but much of the country sees nice weather.

Heading into early next week, we start to see a big shift in the weather pattern. We're finding that nearly all computer models are suggesting a blast of frigid air surges southward into the upper plains by Monday and Tuesday. This is what sets the stage for a major storm. Bringing in this bitterly cold air increases the temperature difference across the country and will create a strong cold front along the Jet Stream. The main battleground for these storms to form will be in the Upper Midwest.

We all know that timing is everything - and Mother Nature sure knows how to time this one in all the wrong days. Most indications are that a major storm will form along this cold front sometime Wednesday into Thanksgiving Day. High pressure will start to exit stage right here in the Southeast, which will allow the Jet Stream to push closer to us as it dips south. I'm expecting the storm to form during the day Wednesday along the Ohio River Valley - and then it will set its eyes on the Northeast there after -- creating a large deal of travel turmoil.

You can see the "Cold Blast" on the backside of this system. This will be the coldest arctic air seen this year in the US. And yes, it will be cold enough to generate some snow in this storm, especially in the Great Lakes. Major cities like Chicago and Detroit will have to be on guard for accumulating snow heading into Wednesday and Thursday. It looks like this is just a rainmaker for the Northeast, but with high winds and huge volume - travel delays at the major airport hubs seem like a good possibility. 

For us here in North Carolina, we can expect this strong cold front to slide through our area sometime from Thursday into early Friday. Don't worry, it will just be a rain maker! But, the coldest air we've seen all season will lurk close behind. Don't be surprised if highs struggle to get out of the 40's!

On the backside of the holiday itself the storm will depart, but the cold weather will settle in. If you're headed into the Northeast you will need your winter clothes to be sure. Even as high pressure builds in, the major Lake Effect Snow belts in Upstate New York / Ohio / and Michigan will need to be on guard for what looks to be the first major event of the season. Somebody could get a foot of snow -- and it could be yours truly!

As of right now, my travel plans take me northward to Syracuse via plane Thanksgiving Day. If I am actually able to get there at the mercy of the airports, I may get stuck buried under some snow while there. Even if I do, I'll be sure to take lots of pictures.

So that's the way it looks right now. Again, these are just the indications in the weather patterns right now -- but it does look like a safe bet that we'll be tracking active weather next week on the busiest travel days of the year, creating headaches for millions. Hopefully you won't be one of them! ( I'm hoping I'm not too!)

That's all for now. Thanks for reading!

- TB


By: Tim Buckley


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