weather thanksgiving week card
CNN meteorologist says storms could disrupt your holiday travel plans
01:47 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

Thanksgiving holiday travel could be a messy one, as forecast models continue to show the potential for plunging temperatures and a “significant storm in the coming week.

Depending on where you live, it may be best to leave early. Not everyone has flexibility in their travel plans, but if you do, Friday and Saturday appear to be better days than Sunday through Tuesday.

Traveling by airline for the holiday? You may be in for a bumpy ride.

Stay on top of the latest delays and the most recent forecast models

Here is the day-by-day breakdown.


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On Friday, rain and snow showers will be moving from the Pacific Ocean all the way to Yellowstone National Park.

Elsewhere, it will be fairly tranquil, but the temperature change might be a bit of a shock to the system.

“After a warm Thursday in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast with temperatures in the 60s and 70s, Friday will feel much more like November,” said CNN meteorologist Taylor Ward. “Highs on Friday will be 20 to 25 degrees cooler with most locations struggling to get out of the 40s.”

The only above-average temperatures will be in the areas between Arizona and North Dakota.


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The nicest travel day may be Saturday, since the vast majority of precipitation will only happen in the intermountain West. Snow and rain showers will occur in areas of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and western Colorado.

After Saturday, travel becomes a bit more hazardous.


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Starting Sunday, many more states will feel the impact of snow, ice and dangerous winds.

From the Great Lakes down to the Gulf Coast, rain will be the primary threat, though snow showers will mix in at times in areas of the upper Midwest.

Rain in Detroit, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, Nashville, Memphis and Pittsburgh may lead to some airport delays as well as traffic jams on interstates and highways.

Overall, rainfall accumulations are expected to be around one inch or less, but some isolated spots could pick up as much as two inches.

“Confidence is higher in a period of brisk to strong winds from the upper Midwest through the East Sunday into Tuesday and then possibly lingering over the Northeast thereafter,” the WPC says.

On Sunday, strong winds begin to kick up in the northern Plains, shifting to the Midwest by Monday. This could lead to significant airline delays as well as very bumpy flights over some locations.


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On Monday, the cold front will extend from New York to Florida, with rain and wind being the main threats.

Cleveland, Chicago and Detroit will all be experiencing gusty crosswinds that could lead to flight delays.

“Significant airline disruptions are possible from the Great Lakes to the Northeast with winds gusting over 50 mph in some locations,” says CNN meteorologist Chad Myers.

Even as far south as Knoxville and Atlanta could be looking at gusty winds on Monday.

“Models are predicting wind speeds inside the jet stream to be over 190 mph in places,” Myers said. “Pilots will be looking for the smoothest air to fly in, but many passengers are sure to hear ‘Ladies and gentlemen, please keep your seat belts securely fastened.’”

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday will also be quite windy in the Northeast, potentially causing some flight delays in Boston, New York and Washington, DC.

Monday also marks another big day of temperature swings across the US.

Much of the Midwest and Ohio River Valley temperatures will be well below normal. Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Detroit, Nashville and St. Louis will all have high temperatures 10 to 15 degrees below seasonal averages.

The above-average temperatures will be limited to the area from Denver to the Canadian border, where high temperatures will be 15-20 degrees above normal.


By Tuesday, we have some lingering snow showers along the eastern Great Lakes, but we are also watching a new low-pressure system pushing into the Mountain West. This storm will become the focal point of travel troubles in the Midwest on Wednesday.

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Keep in mind there is still enough uncertainty in the evolution of this system to allow for other possibilities regarding precipitation types because if the temperatures are warmer by just a few degrees, it will mean the difference between snow and rain for several states.

Timing is also important because the European model nudges this storm along a little faster, whereas the American forecast model is a bit slower. Forward speed is also important in determining how long it lingers over a particular area.

“Many of these details have lower predictability several days out in time, especially since the supporting energy is still over or near Alaska at this time,” the WPC said.

Mother Nature might also be getting her holidays confused thanks to big swings in temperatures.

From Cleveland down through Miami, temperatures on Tuesday will average 10-15 degrees below normal, making it feel more like Christmas than Thanksgiving.

Quite the opposite for the intermountain West and High Plains regions, which will be 10-20 degrees above normal Tuesday, resembling Halloween temperatures more than Thanksgiving.


On Wednesday, there is a triple dose of travel troubles ahead. The first is the storm that may still be lingering over the Northeast continuing to bring rain, snow and gusty winds that could make roadways and runways a mess.

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The best snow potential would likely be from lake effect snow on the Great Lakes and along the Appalachians, from the Carolinas northeastward.

The second will be the storm entering the Midwest. Rain, snow, and even ice are possible for Michigan, Wisconsin, and Illinois, which could be very dangerous for both road and air travel.

The third is the system moving through the Mountain West. Snow showers are possible for Denver, Salt Lake City and Cheyenne, Wyoming.

“Across the northern tier, the combination of low temperatures and wind would produce cold wind chills,” the WPC says.

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Thanksgiving could feel more like Christmas

weather holiday forecast thursday 111821

Hopefully, you’ve made it to your destination by now, but if not, the good news is that there are relatively few areas with poor weather.

Temperatures rebound mostly back to normal by Thursday for much of the eastern half of the US, but keep in mind that “normal” can still be cold.

For example, New York will likely see temperatures in the low 40s, so for anyone that might venture out to watch the big morning parade, make sure you bundle up!

What about the return home? While it is too far out to get a really good handle on the forecast for the weekend after Thanksgiving, two areas look to have more potential than others for dicey travel: the Pacific Northwest and the Gulf Coast region.

CNN Meteorologist Judson Jones contributed to this story