It’s an inconvenient irony that some of the busiest travel days in the United States also happen to land right in the middle of the stormiest part of autumn. Since the beginning of this decade, we’ve only had one Thanksgiving travel period that wasn’t seriously marred by hazardous weather in any of the country’s largest travel hubs. This year looks like it’ll follow the pattern of Thanksgivings before it by producing just enough dreary, sloppy weather to cause some headaches.

Things are slowly starting to return to normal after the long stretches of strangely quiet weather that have blanketed the country for the past couple of months. It’s easy to forget that enjoyable weather is not normal in November when you can wear shorts on Election Day and keep your windows open the week before Thanksgiving, but that’s been our reality these days. November is supposed to be a gloomy, bone-chilling time of the year, and that miserable normalcy is back in place just in time for everyone to head to grandma’s for the long weekend.

Dreary weather will plague the Midwest and West Coast on Wednesday, November 23, 2016. Image Credit: NOAA/WPC


 
The wavy jet stream that’s bringing normal back will spawn a large low-pressure system in the central Plains on Wednesday morning, quickly making its way toward the Great Lakes as it gathers moisture and strength. The combination of cold, Arctic air to the north and warmish, moist air from the south will allow this system to produce everything from thunderstorms in the south to a chilly rain and a few mushy inches of snow in the north.

If you’re flying anywhere for the long Thanksgiving weekend, the ease of your travels will depend on where you’re going and, more importantly, where you’re connecting. Things are looking pretty good if you’re mostly staying along the East Coast, with weather-related delays at major hubs like Atlanta and Washington looking minimal leaving this week or coming back home this weekend.

Folks flying into or out of Chicago, Detroit, or Minneapolis on Wednesday and Thursday might encounter some delays due to low clouds, gusty winds, and occasionally heavy precipitation. The impending low-pressure system will produce a couple of inches of snow in the Upper Midwest, likely blanketing Minneapolis with a small coating of snow on Wednesday before the storm lifts out of the area on Thursday. The weather-related delays in these hubs shouldn’t be as severe as we’ve seen in years past, but even minor delays can cause disruptions that trickle through the system with such a packed schedule of flights coming and going.

Flights along the West Coast might see some weather delays as well. A fast-moving series of small storm systems will come ashore from the Pacific Ocean over the next five days, with each system bringing with it gusty winds, steady rainfall, and poor visibility during the worst conditions. The greatest impacts should be limited to Seattle and Portland, Oregon, but they could extend as far south as San Francisco on Wednesday night.

Driving across the stormy areas won’t be much of a treat, either. Make sure to check the forecast before you head out so you know what you’re driving into before you get there. If you’re not able to drive in the snow or rain, make alternate plans or see if you can get someone else to drive for you. The weather won’t be much worse than what you experience during a normal commute, but there will be more people on the highways than you’d see on a normal day, so make sure you give yourself plenty of time and space to get to your friends or family safely.