More than 55 million Americans are expected to travel during Thanksgiving week – an increase of 1.6 million compared to last year and the second busiest in 19 years – though stormy weather could upset their plans.
Meteorologists say three huge winter storms bringing freezing conditions, rain and strong winds can be expected across the United States during the holiday period.
This could complicate travel plans for the millions of Americans expected to board a US carrier to fly during this holiday season.
Airlines for America, an industry trade organization which represents leading US airlines, said it expected 31.6 million passengers to board US carriers during the 12-day Thanksgiving travel period which started on Friday.
An estimated 55 million Americans will be traveling during the Thanksgiving holiday period this year, according to the American Automobile Association
Most Americans – 49.3 million- are expected to be driving, with peak volume expected on the day before Thanksgiving. Drivers in major cities are advised to expect massive delays during peak hours
Delays of up to three times the usual driving times are expected on Wednesday afternoon in San Francisco, Washington, DC, Seattle, Detroit, and Chicago
Lower gas prices and a strong economy have given more Americans the means to travel this year, according to AAA. Traffic is seen above on the John F. Kennedy Expressway in Chicago during Thanksgiving weekend 2018
The group estimates that the Sunday after Thanksgiving – December 1 – will be the busiest travel day ever for the American airline industry, as 3.1 million people are expected to fly back home on that day.
The organization says that an average of 2.63 million passengers per day will fly during the Thanksgiving travel period.
The day before Thanksgiving – Wednesday, November 27 – will likely see 2.98 million passengers flock to the airports.
Thanksgiving Day itself – Thursday, November 28 – will be one of the lightest travel days of the year. Only 1.79 million Americans are expected to fly that day, Airlines for America estimates.
To keep up with the demand, US airlines are expected to add about 850 flights during the holiday period.
With record numbers of airline passengers expected, the federal government is also preparing to beef up security and keep the airports safe.
The weather is likely to make air travel more difficult for the millions expected to flock to the airport during the Thanksgiving period. The above image shows travelers checking in at Los Angeles International Airport in November 2013
Inclement weather is expected this week, with the Rocky Mountains likely to see heavy snowfall on Monday. The Pacific Northwest is also expected to see rainfall
On Tuesday, delays are expected on the West Coast, the Great Plains, and the Upper Midwest
Wednesday is likely to see considerable delays in airports across the country
Thanksgiving Day is usually a light travel day for the airlines, but delays are still expected in the West as well as Texas
Most of the country will be blanketed by either rain or snow on the day after Thanksgiving, though the coastal regions are not forecast to be impacted by the weather
Saturday will also see substantial precipitation in much of the country
The Transportation Security Administration says that its agents screen about 2.1 million passengers nationwide on a typical day.
‘We expect record breaking travel volume this 2019 holiday season, following our busiest summer ever,’ said TSA Acting Deputy Administrator Patricia Cogswell.
‘To plan for the season, partnerships with industry and stakeholders are critical to keep travelers moving safely and securely to holiday destinations.
‘We want to ensure travelers are as best prepared as they can be.’
The highways will also be packed. The American Automobile Association says it expects the peak driving period to be on Wednesday, November 27 – the day before Thanksgiving.
More than 55 million travelers will take a trip of at least 50 miles away from home during Thanksgiving, according to AAA.
That is the second-highest Thanksgiving travel volume since AAA started tracking the data in 2000.
The highest travel volume ever recorded nationwide was in 2005.
Some areas in the Rocky Mountains, Great Plains, and Upper Midwest regions could see up to a foot of snow through Wednesday
Minnesota and Wisconsin are likely to see snowfall on the day before Thanksgiving, while warmer temperatures in the Midwest means rain
AAA says there will be 1.6 million more travelers this year compared to a year ago – an increase of 2.9 per cent.
The overwhelming majority – 49.3 million – will be driving. AAA says that the strong economy is allowing more families to dip into their wallets and hit the road.
But the organization is warning drivers in major cities that their trips could be delayed four times the normal amount on Wednesday beginning in the late afternoon hours.
Some 1.49 million Americans will be traveling through trains, buses, and cruise ships – an increase of 1.4 per cent compared to 2018.
Americans’ travel plans are likely to be complicated by the weather.
Large swathes of the country are set to be battered by the bad weather, with forecasters predicting a snowstorm that will hit the Rockies, Great Plains, and Upper Midwest beginning on Monday; gusty winds that will impact air travel in the Midwest and Northeast starting on Wednesday; and significant rainfall in the Pacific Northwest and Northern California beginning on Tuesday.
The West Coast could also see several feet of snow across the mountains by Wednesday, the busiest travel day of the year, Accuweather warns.
It could even reach as far as the Peninsular Mountains in Southern California, meteorologists say.
For the Midwest, Tuesday into Wednesday is forecast to be the worst time for travel.
This weather map shows the forecast for the U.S. this Thanksgiving week, with rain and showers hitting the East Coast
Forecasters predict three huge winter storms could bring freezing conditions, rain and strong winds across the United States just in time for the millions travelling home for Thanksgiving. Snowfall is predicted across the Midwest throughout the week
High winds are also expected to spark travel chaos for many by Wednesday, which is said to be the busiest travel day of the year. The gusty weather could also spell problems for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, with their iconic balloons forced to be grounded
The West Coast could see several feet of snow across the mountains by Wednesday. By Wednesday Arizona could see snow, as could New Mexico, the northern Texas Panhandle, Oklahoma Panhandle. The storm is expected to move into the central Plains by midweek
Wisconsin and Michigan could see heavy snow by Tuesday.
AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson said: ‘At this time, enough snow to create winterlike travel is anticipated from central and northeastern Colorado to much of Nebraska, northern Kansas, much of Iowa, northwestern Missouri, northwestern Illinois, southeastern Minnesota, central and eastern Wisconsin and northern Michigan.’
He added: ‘Enough snow to shovel and plow is anticipated in this swath.’
By Wednesday Arizona could see snow, as could New Mexico, the northern Texas Panhandle, Oklahoma Panhandle. The storm is expected to move into the central Plains by midweek.
It is then forecast to move towards the East Coast, affecting those trying to head back home after Thanksgiving.
Philadelphia, New York City and Boston will likely see heavy rain. Northern New England to northern Maine may well see heavy snow.
High winds could also spell problems for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with their iconic balloons forced to be grounded.
Every year millions gather in New York to watch the Thanksgiving Day parade and see its 16 giant character balloons.
However, this year weather experts forecast icy sustained winds of 22mph and perilous wind gusts of 39mph during the parade.
The balloons are not allowed to be flown if sustained winds exceed 23mph and gusts exceed 34mph, as per city regulations.
The regulations were put in place after parade officials lost control of the iconic Cat in the Hat balloon due to strong winds in 1997 and it injured four people. The balloon’s hat crashed into a lamp post in the powerful winds and falling debris from the collision injured spectators below.
The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade may not fly its famous balloons this year due to dangerously windy conditions with forecast wind gusts of 39mph
City officials won’t make the call on whether to fly the balloons or not until Thursday morning as wind conditions can quickly change.
The balloons are scheduled to be inflated the afternoon and evening before the parade near the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan.
The last time the parade’s balloons were grounded due to weather concerns was in 1971, according to the New York Times.
This year’s forecast for the parade predicts it will be 44 to 47F.
The regulations were put in place after parade officials lost control of the iconic Cat in the Hat balloon due to strong winds in 1997 and it injured four people. That Cat in the Hat balloon pictured above with its hat deflated after crashing into a lamp post.
Workers try to control the Pink Pather balloon after high winds ripped a hole in the balloon during the 71st Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in 1997
This year’s Thanksgiving holiday will see rain and snow hit the Midwest and Northeast from Tuesday and Wednesday and strong winds into Thursday on the East Coast.
‘Gusts are forecast to frequent 30 to 50 mph from the north and northwest on Thanksgiving day in the New York metro area,’ according to AccuWeather Meterologist Courtney Travis.
However, higher gusts could be possible between high rise buildings where wind is funneled and over bridges.
‘Winds this strong will be a safety concern for balloon handlers and spectators along the parade route,’ Travis said.