If your Thanksgiving travels are taking you to the East Coast on Wednesday, be prepared for flight delays and cancellations as a powerful storm moves from North Carolina up to New England.
A nor'easter dumping rain and snow in the Northeast is adding to travel angst on the day before Thanksgiving, the busiest travel day of the year in the nation.
As of Wednesday afternoon Pacific time, more than 3,000 flights departing from or heading to U.S. cities were delayed and 650 were canceled, flight-tracking service FlightAware reports. More than 200 flights were canceled late Tuesday, even before the storm hit, as a preemptive measure, the website reports.
Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) in New Jersey, LaGuardia Airport (LGA) in New York City and Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) led the pack of airports with the most cancellations.
The FAA reported average delays of nearly an hour and a half for flights into Boston Logan Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York because of weather. LaGuardia was experiencing an average delay of about two hours, and Newark International, where 1 in 5 flights have been delayed, had racked up average flight delays of more than three hours, according to the agency's website.
And when you arrive at your destination, expect roadways to be a mess too, with forecasts calling for some form of snow and rain to be falling Wednesday along the Eastern Seaboard.
A mix of rain and snow was already hitting Washington and the mid-Atlantic region early Wednesday afternoon, according to Andrew Orrison, lead meteorologist for the National Weather Service.
Areas just west of major cities such as New York, Boston and Philadelphia are expected to see the largest snowfall, with freezing temperatures bringing the danger of black ice on the roadways.
Daniel Baker, CEO of FlightAware, said he anticipates as many as 5,000 delayed flights as the heaviest snow and cold temperatures set in Wednesday evening. "The challenge that both travelers and airlines run into … is that when there's a cancellation or delay during the holidays, there's not a lot of extra seats," Baker said.
Many airlines, including American, Delta, Southwest and United, are waiving ticket change fees for passengers passing through airports up and down the East Coast.
Still, Baker said, travelers whose flights are affected by the weather may have a tough time finding alternative flights to their destination and are likely to be in a time crunch to get there in time for the festivities.
And don't be fooled by the 80-degree temperatures near LAX, which is expecting nearly 2 million passengers over Thanksgiving. Increased delays could also snarl traffic at Southern California airports, as aircraft criss-crossing the country get caught up in the storm.
"If you have some flexibility, you can get out of the office a little bit earlier, I would do it," Baker said.
To stay current on your flight or the flight of someone you're picking up at the airport, check with your airline (on its website or via Twitter or Facebook) or use the airline flight tracker on FlightAware's home page.
Forecasters predict the weather will mellow out by Thursday morning, as the storm moves out.