Winter Arriving in Time for Travel

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Neal: What’s the flight situation?
Del: Simple. There’s no way on earth we’re going to get out of here tonight. We’d have more luck playing pickup sticks with our butt-cheeks than we will getting a flight out of here before daybreak.
Neal: I guess we’ll find out soon enough.
Del: Yeah, but by the time the airline cancels this flight, which they will sooner or later, you’d have more of a chance to find a three-legged ballerina than you would a hotel room.
Neal: Are you saying I could be stuck in Wichita?
Del: I’m saying you are stuck in Wichita.

Steve Martin and John Candy discovered what a little snow can do to travel plans. Image: IMDB.com

Has there ever been a holiday travel movie better than “Planes, Trains and Automobiles“? I don’t think so. Unless, of course, the story line is being written right now across the Pacific Northwest or, perhaps over the next several days as a major winter storm pushes east across the country. As Neal Page (Steve Martin) and Del Griffith (John Candy) discovered, winter weather can play havoc with the best laid travel plans. Fortunately for Neal and Del, their story ended in front of a warm fire and perfectly roasted turkey with family and friends. But might next week end differently for travelers across the U.S.?

Currently, winter storm advisories are in effect from the northern Plains westward across the Rockies and Great Basin, the Sierras and higher elevations of northern California. In fact, over the next 48 hours the Eureka, California National Weather Service office is issuing alerts for up to two feet of snow in the higher elevations. Pocatello, Idaho is also expecting up to two feet of snow above 5,500 feet. In North and South Dakota, forecasters are advising of light snow beginning tonight, becoming heavier tomorrow and beginning to taper off on Sunday; as much as six inches is possible in some places.

What about next week? Unfortunately, it looks like the storm system now taking shape will continue gathering strength for the next several days and eventually reach the Gulf Coast by midweek next week. Reaching, for example, Houston late Wednesday or early Thanksgiving morning.

The current status of weather alerts and advisories across the U.S.A. Image: NOAA.

What’s this mean? If your holiday travel is to any place but the Southwest, the Gulf Coast or the Deep South, be prepared for winter weather to interfere with your holiday travel. Be on the lookout for strong winds across the Midwest, snow from the Great Lakes to the Plains and wet, temperatures (and wind chills) well below normal across mid-sections of the country, and stormy weather across the Mississippi, the Tennessee and likely the Ohio River Valleys.

Now is the time prepare: Pre-load your mobile phone with customer service and reservations numbers to your airlines, hotels and car rental agencies of choice. Begin padding your schedule with the inevitable delays in mind. Give your relatives a heads up that your travel plans might not go exactly as planned. Grab the heavy jacket and boots (which will likely mean an extra or at least a larger suitcase). Not traveling? Do your holiday food shopping sooner rather than later and be prepared for indoor activities. Have extra “everything” on hand so you don’t have to head out into the storm or the snow. Stock up on wood for the fireplace. Read Lauren’s YWB post from Wednesday about being prepared for winter weather.

The 5-Day forecast map from ImpactWeather's StormWatch team takes us to Tuesday of next week.

Lastly, since this is the last business day of the last full week before the big Thanksgiving holiday, I’d like to wish you and your family the best holiday season — no matter what the weather brings.

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