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Big Travel Day Could Be A Big Mess Due To Weather

Tuesday's forecast for the eastern half of the U.S. shows big bands of rain, freezing rain and snow.
National Weather Service
Tuesday's forecast for the eastern half of the U.S. shows big bands of rain, freezing rain and snow.

Rain, sleet, snow and an estimated 43.4 million Americans traveling to be with family or friends.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The winter weather that's been moving toward some of the heaviest populated parts of the nation just in time for the busiest travel day of the year continues to spread. So watch out if you're planning to be on the roads Wednesday in the eastern half of the U.S.

Sadly, at least 11 deaths have been linked to the storm — "half of them in Texas," The Associated Press says, and most in accidents on highways.

Fortunately, though, the weather hasn't been as bad as some predicted. The AP adds that in "parts of Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas ... temperatures creeping above freezing [meant] the outcome was less dramatic than forecasters had feared."

"It's just really cold. We had drizzle but no snow," Courtney O'Neal-Walden, an owner of the Dairyette diner on U.S. 270 in Mount Ida, Ark., told the wire service. "You can see (ice) on the power lines but the roads are fine."

So what's the forecast?

The Weather Channel, which insists on naming winter storms and calls this one Boreas (Greek god of the north wind) says there will be:

"Snow and some freezing rain in parts of the interior Northeast starting Tuesday. ... A wintry mess of snow, sleet, and freezing rain will spread from the Appalachians, Shenandoah Valley and Upper Ohio Valley Tuesday morning to western, central and Upstate New York, northern and western New England by Tuesday afternoon. ...

"Tuesday night, the wintry mess spreads into northern New England, but continues in the Appalachians and Ohio Valley and even starts to shift back eastward over western Pennsylvania and West Virginia. ...

"For the busiest travel day of the year, Wednesday, accumulating snow will continue in the interior Northeast, from Upstate New York to the central Appalachians. A thin band of sleet and freezing rain is possible north and west of Interstate 95 from Maine to northwest Virginia, as rain persists from coastal New England to New York City much of the day. From roughly Washington D.C. southward, the rain rapidly moves out during the middle of the day Wednesday."

The National Weather Service warns that:

"A complicated storm system will raise holiday travel concerns throughout the Eastern U.S. on Tuesday and Wednesday. Heavy rain is expected along the East Coast from Atlanta up through Boston. Sleet and freezing rain will fall in parts of the Mid-Atlantic and along most of the Appalachians. Heavy snowfall is possible in Western Pennsylvania, western New York and adjacent New England."

For air travelers, the standard advice applies: check for delays — with your airlines and if you wish with the FAA — before you go to the airport.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.