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Pre-Thanksgiving travel: Central, northwestern US to face greatest risk of delays

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Travelers in the central and northwestern United States will face the greatest risk of delays during the heavily-traveled days leading up to Thanksgiving.

The busiest travel period of year will feature 48.7 million Americans traveling 50 miles or more from home Wednesday, Nov. 23 to Sunday, Nov. 27, according to projections from the American Automobile Association (AAA).

AAA estimates that more than 89 percent of travelers (43.5 million) will drive to their holiday destinations, while a total of 3.69 million are expected to fly.

Mother Nature threatens to put a wrench in some holiday travel plans in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, especially in the central and northwestern U.S.

Storm threatens to cause delays across central US

Sunday and Monday will feature the best days for pre-Thanksgiving Day travel across the central U.S. prior to a storm arriving on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The upcoming storm will not be as potent as the recent blizzard. However, there can still be enough wintry and wet weather to cause travel slowdowns on highways and at airports.

"Rain will fall from Nebraska and Iowa to northeastern Texas," AccuWeather Meteorologist Steve Travis said, "while periods of snow will fall across western Nebraska into the Dakotas and western Minnesota."

The snow will gradually depart Wyoming and the Colorado Rockies during the day and could develop across northern Wisconsin in the afternoon.

A few inches of snow are likely to accumulate, leading to portions of interstates 29, 35, 80, 90 and 94 becoming slippery or slushy.

The storm could arrive early enough on Tuesday to bring a wintry mix and icy spots in the Upper Midwest, including around Minneapolis.

A mixture of rain and wet snow will gradually diminish around Denver during the day, but gusty winds whipping all of the central High Plains could allow flight delays to persist into the afternoon.

"On Wednesday, this storm will bring rain to the Great Lakes," Travis said. "This includes Chicago, which may cause travel headaches."

Enough cold air will be in place for snow from Minnesota to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, while thunderstorms stretch from Nashville to Houston.

Severe thunderstorms will not erupt, but the thunderstorms can produce downpours that will lead to reduced visibility and heighten the risk of vehicles hydroplaning when traveling at highway speeds.

As the storm tracks eastward, sunshine and calmer conditions will return to the High Plains for Wednesday's busy travel day.

More rain, pass-level snow to target the Northwest

The storm set to target the central U.S. on Tuesday and Wednesday will first focus on the Four Corners region with rain and gusty winds on Monday.

Rain and mountain snow showers will lightly dot the Northwest and cause minor inconveniences for early holiday travelers. However, more travel woes may arise on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Soaking rain will first target the I-5 corridor on Tuesday before periods of rain and mountain snow spread to Idaho and central California on Wednesday.

From Seattle to Portland to Medford, Oregon, the afternoon and evening hours of Tuesday will bring the heaviest rain and highest concerns for flight delays, wet roads and reduced visibility.

Snow levels will fall to pass level, creating slick conditions for a time on I-90's Snoqualmie Pass and I-80's Donner Pass. The worst conditions for the latter will likely be on Wednesday morning.

The storm will not drop farther south into the Southwest, allowing sunshine and calm conditions to dominate Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Phoenix on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Northwest will continue to face a parade of storms through the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

Northeastern US weather to improve for pre-Thanksgiving Day travel

Snow showers from this weekend will continue to stream across the Northeast's interior on Monday. Blustery winds will tug on vehicles and could lead to flight delays throughout the entire region.

"The lake-effect snow across western and central New York could make for tricky travel on I-90 on Monday," Travis said.

As the storm delivering the taste of winter gradually departs, conditions will improve for travelers as the busiest travel day arrives.

"Overall, Tuesday and Wednesday will be fine across the Northeast with diminished winds and dry weather," Travis said.

On Wednesday, the main issue for travelers along the I-95 corridor from Portland, Maine, to Boston to New York City to Washington, D.C., will sun glare.

Some clouds will begin to filter into the Northeast on Wednesday ahead of a storm set to return rain and interior snow on Thanksgiving Day.

Dry weather will also span most of the Southeast in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, resulting in an extended stretch of good traveling conditions.

The one exception will be in the vicinity of the wildfires burning in the southern Appalachians. Depending on the wind direction each day, poor visibility will result on area roads.