Pre-Thanksgiving Nor'easter Snarls Holiday Travel

By Dr. Jeff Masters
Published: 3:54 PM GMT on November 26, 2014

Nearly nineteen million people in the Eastern U.S. are under a Winter Storm Warning as a poorly-timed Nor'easter socks it to travelers hitting the roads and skies in advance of the Thanksgiving holiday. The storm was bringing heavy rain to the big cities of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast U.S. Wednesday morning, and heavy snows inland over the higher terrain. As of 9:30 am EST, widespread snowfall amounts of 1 - 3" had been reported over Western Virginia and West Virginia, with a maximum of 8" reported at Frenchburg, WV and 6" at Mount Rogers, VA. The rains falling closer to the coast will change to snow on Wednesday afternoon at the same time that millions of people hit the roads, bringing a major pre-holiday travel mess. Little or no accumulation is likely in Washington D.C., but Philadelphia is under a Winter Weather Advisory for 1 - 3" of snow. Snowfall amounts of 1 - 3" are also expected in New York City, and Boston is likely to get 1 - 2" of slushy snow and sleet. The heaviest snows from the storm will come Wednesday afternoon into Wednesday evening, and may take some time to accumulate on the roads due to stored heat from the warm temperatures of the past few days. Heavier snows will fall inland from the coast, where widespread snow amounts of 6 - 12 inches are likely along a swath from Northeast Pennsylvania and Northwest New Jersey into Maine, including Hartford, Connecticut and central Massachusetts cities like Worcester. The most serious impacts may be in Portland, Maine, which is under a Winter Storm Warning for 8 - 12" of snow.

Figure 1. Satellite image taken at 9:45 am EST November 26, 2014 of the pre-Thanksgiving Nor'easter affecting the U.S. East Coast. Image credit: NASA/GSFC.

Air travel will be heavily impacted
Low visibility and low cloud ceilings due to heavy rain in the major cities along the East Coast on Wednesday morning were causing extensive flight delays across much of the U.S. These delays will increase on Wednesday afternoon as the snow moves in. The MiseryMap showed 490 delayed flights and 12 cancelled flights between 8 am and noon EST on Wednesday, with 42% of the delays occurring in DC, Philadelphia, Newark, NYC, and Boston.

As of 10 am EST, the FAA was reporting the following average flight delays for flights whose destinations were these airports:

NYC La Guardia: 3 hours, 9 minutes
Newark, NJ: 3 hours, 18 minutes
Philadelphia, PA: 1 hour, 43 minutes
Minneapolis, MN: 1 hour, 23 minutes

Figure 2. Snowfall forecast for the New York City area made on Tuesday morning, November 26, 2014. Image credit: NWS New York City.

Figure 3. Snowfall forecast for the Boston area made on Tuesday morning, November 26, 2014. Image credit: NWS Boston.

Figure 3. Snowfall forecast for the Philadelphia area made on Tuesday morning, November 26, 2014. Image credit: NWS Philadelphia.

Have safe travels and a great Thanksgiving holiday, everyone!

Jeff Masters

Snow in Shavertown, PA (ajgryskevicz)
Snow in Shavertown, PA, by ajgryskevicz
Mt Landsend Sunset-Web4-4044.jpg (wundernorm1948)
Sun setting on West Elk Range
Mt Landsend Sunset-Web4-4044.jpg, by wundernorm1948
Deer Trail (OlsonLon)
Deer Trail, by OlsonLon
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About The Author
Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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