Bad weather across the U.S. could throw a curveball for travelers headed out away from home this Thanksgiving week, which is expected to be one of the busiest travel periods, both on the road and in the air, of recent memory.
According to the National Weather Service’s (NWS) Weather Prediction Center, two main storms could wreak havoc on travel this week in the lead-up to Thanksgiving.
The first storm could cause issues as soon as Monday, with the area from east Texas to Western Alabama at risk for severe storms. That area includes major cities such as Jackson, Miss; New Orleans, La.; and Mobile, Ala. Those cities and the surrounding areas are at risk for some tornadoes, some of which could be strong, along with strong winds and thunderstorms.
Experts, including meteorologists at NBC, said that the threatening weather in that area should drop off later on Tuesday, though tornadoes could still occur in Georgia and the Carolinas.
The other main storm system could bring a “wintry mix” to New England and the Interior Northeast starting on Tuesday, with some areas, including those at the higher elevations of New Hampshire and Maine, at risk for heavy snowfall.
Bad weather could also hit New York, with the western part of the state and the North Country most at risk. The risk isn’t as great in the hubs around New York and the northeast’s major metro areas. Those cities are predicted to see some rain and wind from Tuesday into Wednesday, which usually would not cause travel issues, but, when combined with record volume at airports, could spell trouble.
On top of those two storm systems, the NWS says that “moderate to heavy” snowfall is also expected to reach the northern Rockies by Thursday, before snowfall potential shifts into the central Rockies and central High Plains on Friday.
While the storms are nothing new, they pose a potential danger simply because of the volume of travel expected this week.
According to the TSA, the whole period from last Friday, Nov. 17, which is typically the kick-off of Thanksgiving travel week, through the Sunday afterward the holiday is expected to be busy—the TSA said it expects to screen 30 million passengers over those 12 days. However, it’s some of the busiest days that could potentially set some records.
The TSA is projecting to screen 2.6 million passengers on Tuesday, Nov. 21; 2.7 million on Wednesday, Nov. 22; and 2.9 million passengers on Sunday, Nov. 26.
That 2.9 million number for Sunday would set the record as the highest volume day ever for the TSA, beating the previous record of 2.94 million, which the TSA recorded on June 30, 2023, and the pre-pandemic record of 2.88 million, which the TSA recorded on Dec. 1, 2019, which was also a post-Thanksgiving Sunday.
At the same time, AAA expects some huge numbers of people to hit the road. AAA said in its prediction that 49.1 million people will drive more than 50 miles or more from home this week, a 1.7% increase over last year.
For those driving, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is projected to be the busiest day, with traffic, in some cities, boosting travel time by up to 88% over normal. Leaving in the early morning or after 6 p.m. on that Wednesday is typically the best way to avoid the heaviest traffic, according to transportation data company INRIX.