Winter storm may bring chaos to Thanksgiving travel plans

Flying the day before Thanksgiving? Major Northeast storm may cause delays

An ill-timed winter storm is expected to make an appearance on the East Coast on Wednesday, threatening to snarl holiday travel plans on what is traditionally the busiest travel day of the year.

The storm system is expected to form off the coast of Florida on Tuesday night and move up the coast, hitting much of New England from Wednesday through Thursday morning.

“Wednesday is probably the worst travel day, and it just so happens that we have a coastal low that will be moving up the coastline,” said Ross Dickman, meteorologist in charge at the National Weather Service in New York City. “Travel is going to be an absolute nightmare for people trying to leave Wednesday afternoon.”

The storm, described as a classic nor’easter, is expected to bring as much as a foot of snow to some parts of New England, and could drop temperatures to freezing or below freezing throughout New York and New Jersey.

The snow and rain are expected to clear out in time for New York City’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday morning, Dickman says, but temperatures will be around 40 degrees, with windchill bringing it down to about 20 degrees.

Much of Massachusetts, where heavy downpours are already being reported, is under a winter storm watch for Wednesday morning through Thursday morning, according to the National Weather Service in Boston.

Much of the country is still recovering from epic snowstorms that hit much of the country last week, bringing more than 6 feet of snow to some parts of New York state. The region experienced a brief thaw over the weekend, leading to flood warnings as the snowfall began to melt.

This week's East Coast storm could put a damper on holiday travel in and out of the country's West Coast, even as Los Angeles anticipates 80-degree temperatures Thanksgiving Day.

Los Angeles International Airport is expected to be the busiest airport in the nation for Thanksgiving travel this year, which means delayed flights could have major effects for travelers in Southern California.

“It just takes one airport to essentially have a rippling effect for the national airspace,” Dickman said.

If L.A.-bound travelers do make it out of the East Coast, more travel headaches could await: One report predicts that Los Angeles traffic will be the worst in the nation Wednesday.  

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