Wintry weather temporarily loosened its grip across much of the U.S. just in time for Thanksgiving, after tangling holiday travelers in wind, ice and snow and before more major storms descend Friday.
There were some exceptions to the respite, particularly involving California´s main north-south Highway 5, which was shut down in Southern California early Thursday as heavy snow softly blanketed the region.
But high winds that had ripped a wooden sign from scaffolding on Chicago´s Willis Tower and nearly felled the Christmas Tree to close Cleveland´s Public Square Wednesday were calm enough by Thursday morning to allow the Macy´s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York to proceed, albeit with balloons flying at lower levels.
The National Weather Service predicted things could get dicey – if not impassable – for holiday travelers´ trips home.
Forecasters have still warned against travel Friday night through Saturday night in a stretch of country from northeast Wyoming to northwest South Dakota due to expected blizzard conditions.
An image provided by the Mammoth Mountain Ski Area shows parked SUVs covered in snow at Mammoth Mountain in Mammoth Mountain, California during a winter storm
Wintry weather temporarily loosened its grip across much of the U.S. just in time for Thanksgiving, after tangling holiday travelers in wind, ice and snow and before more major storms descend Friday. An image above tweeted by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department snow falling in Los Padres National Forest
An image provided by the Mammoth Mountain Ski Area shows a Caterpillar snow plow clearing a road at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area resort in California
In California, authorities grappling with the second closure of I-5 in three days suggested alternate routes Thursday as they worked to clear the road
The next storm system was expected to drop up to 2 feet of additional snow from the Sierra Nevada to the central and northern Rockies as it rolls across a large swath of the western and central United States.
In California, authorities grappling with the second closure of I-5 in three days suggested alternate routes Thursday as they worked to clear the road. A previous closure on Tuesday near the border with Oregon stranded hundreds of people, and Thursday´s seemed likely to separate some families for the holiday.
Long stretches of two interstate highways in northern Arizona´s high country also were expected to be closed between late Thursday and early Friday because of expected heavy snowfall.
High winds also caused power outages in parts of the country, which crews scrambled to address Thursday.
In Ohio, crews had restored power to about 90 percent of those affected by Wednesday power outages caused by high winds. At peak, 42,000 customers in central Ohio and 39,000 in northeast Ohio were without electricity.
Forecasters have still warned against travel Friday night through Saturday night in a stretch of country from northeast Wyoming to northwest South Dakota due to expected blizzard conditions
: A police officer checks on a stranded motorist after they hit a patch of ice and put their SUV in the ditch in Rudd, Iowa
In Maine, heavy, wet snow and gusty winds caused more than 20,000 power outages. Central Maine Power Co. said in addition to its crews, at least 70 contractor crews, including 50 from Canada, were actively working or were headed to Maine Thursday to provide restoration support.
About 40 flights at Salt Lake City International Airport were experiencing delays Thursday averaging around 25 minutes. Spokeswoman Nancy Volmer said some of those may have related to weather in other cities.
She said most snow had been cleared by Thursday afternoon at the nation´s fourth-largest Delta hub, but crews were bracing for more snowfall by evening.
In Chicago, which experienced delays headed into Thanksgiving Day, the Chicago Department of Aviation said things were pretty much back to normal.
Two major winter storms had disrupted the travel plans of millions of Americans headed to Thanksgiving Day destinations on jam-packed highways and airplanes Wednesday.
Those living in the western two-thirds of the country have been badly hit with deteriorating conditions, forcing the closure of interstates and resulting in canceled flights – just as 55 million were on the move for the holidays.
It comes after more than 300,000 homes were left without power on Wednesday night in the Great Lakes region during a powerful storm, with Michigan and Ohio the worst hit.
Drivers along Interstate 5 in California also reported being trapped in cars overnight after a deluge of snow caused by a ‘bomb cyclone’ forced more than 100 miles of road to close.
Drivers said they were stranded in their cars overnight along Interstate 5 in California as a ‘bomb cyclone’ storm caused a deluge of snow which closed more than 100 miles of roads
Heavy snow with blizzard warnings are currently in place for parts of the Northern Plains and Northern High Plains
Snow will develop over parts of the Northern Rockies and the Northern Plains overnight Thanksgiving and will affect states from Wyoming to Dakota
Stranded cars made it difficult for plows to clear the freeway. I-5 was closed in both directions late Tuesday because of the storm, but the southbound lanes reopened at Ashland, Oregon early Wednesday
Rain will also develop over parts of the Ohio Valley overnight Friday into Saturday with rain warnings also place in California
In Kansas and Colorado, the same storm shuttered part of the I-70 and was so dangerous the highway patrol urged residents not to leave their homes.
‘Stay put. Doesn’t look like fun,’ Trooper Tod Hileman warned.
Across the country, more than 600 flights had been canceled and 4,753 were delayed by Thursday morning.
There was also chaos on the roads. Drivers reported being stuck for 17 or more hours in blizzard conditions and some spent the night in their vehicles overnight on Tuesday. The road only reopened late on Wednesday evening.
‘We’ve been white knuckling it for the last four hours and sliding around the road,’ said Lisa Chadwick after she stopped in Bend, Oregon, driving north from San Francisco.
She had snowchains for her two-wheel drive car, but did not know how to put them on.
Stranded cars made it difficult for plows to clear the freeway. I-5 was closed in both directions late Tuesday because of the storm, but the southbound lanes reopened at Ashland, Oregon early Wednesday.
The northbound lanes of Interstate 5 reopened on Wednesday evening heading from Redding, California, all the way to the Oregon border.
Meanwhile, Southern California is bracing for heavy rains over the next two days that could bring flash flooding.
Long Beach, Malibu, Rancho Palos Verdes, Van Nuys, and Whittier are expected to see some flooding on Thursday, according to NBC Los Angeles.
Authorities have also issued a wind chill alert, as temperatures in some sections of Los Angeles County could dip to 32 degree Fahrenheit.
The Midwest was also hit hard by a storm that clobbered Denver on Tuesday, with airports in Minneapolis and Chicago suffering hundreds of delays and cancellations.
The storms hit on one of the busiest travel days of the year, with a near-record 55 million Americans set to journey at least 50 miles for Thanksgiving on Thursday, according to the American Automobile Association.
A total of 32 states – two-thirds of the Continental United States – remains under a storm watch or advisory.
Another major storm is expected to descend on the West Coast over Tuesday and Wednesday, bringing ‘bomb cyclone’ conditions with over two feet of snow to the mountains in the Northwest and possible flash flooding in Southern California
Record-low temperatures are expected in several major cities on Thanksgiving thanks to the first of the two storm systems
The second storm brought snow to the mountains and wind and rain along the coasts of California and Oregon on Tuesday. It’s expected to move inland by the weekend
After parts of Colorado got up to 30 inches of snow on Tuesday, Minneapolis was expected to get as much as 12 inches as the system slid east, said Brian Hurley, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in College Park, Maryland.
Thursday, November 28: The West and the Great Plains will be blanketed by either rain or snow on Thanksgiving.
Friday, November 29: The massive storm system stretching from California through the Great Plains will move eastward.
Saturday, November 30: The storm continues to move east, this time dumping rain in the Midwest and Southeast. Parts of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota are likely to see snowfall.
The storm, which is packing high winds, will move across upper Michigan and upstate New York toward central Maine, which could get six to 10 inches of snow, the Weather Service forecast.
On the West Coast, heavy rain threatened flash floods from San Diego to Los Angeles.
Los Angeles International Airport told domestic passengers to arrive three hours early as it expected 238,000 passengers and 113,000 vehicles on Wednesday.
‘There has been definitely lots of honking, lots of near accidents that I’ve seen, for sure,’ Daniel Julien, a 24-year-old paralegal from Pasadena, said after making it to the airport.
A silver lining was that rain doused the Cave Fire in Santa Barbara County, which charred 7 square miles of brush and woodlands.
But it brought evacuation warnings to thousands of residents in Santa Barbara suburbs for possible mudslides on fire-charred hills.
On Thanksgiving Day, a second wave of the storm is expected to bring more intense rain and snow across the state of California, the Los Angeles Times reported.
At last one to two inches of rain is expected in coastal and valley areas, with up to three inches in the foothills and at lower elevations in the mountains.
Across the country on Wednesday, 4,083 flights were delayed, and 148 were canceled into or out of the United States by 6.30pm Eastern Standard Time, with Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport tallying the most, according to FlightAware.com.
‘There are apocalyptic storms all over the country and 50mph winds! Why would things not be the worst. Anyway pray 4 me,’ said a Twitter user going by the name of Abigail H., who was leaving O’Hare on Wednesday.
The East Coast was largely unscathed, but wind gusts of up to 40 mph forecast for Thursday morning threatened to sideline the Macy’s New York City Thanksgiving parade’s 16 giant balloons for safety reasons.
Organizers have said they will make the decision on Thursday whether to go ahead.