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Here’s where stormy weather could affect Thanksgiving travel

A pair of storm systems may drench parts of the southern and eastern U.S., with snow possible in Texas

Heavy traffic moves along the 101 freeway Wednesday in Los Angeles. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

The window surrounding Thanksgiving is one of the busiest travel stretches of the year. The Transportation Security Administration expects 2.5 million air passengers to take to the skies Wednesday alone, and that number could surge even higher this weekend. Nearly 55 million Americans, meanwhile, will drive 50 miles or more. Suffice to say, the weather will be crucial for the next four or five days.

D.C.-area forecast: Smooth sailing through Thanksgiving Day, then rain chances return

While most pre-Thanksgiving travel is set to go off without a hitch, a pair of storm systems could make things dicey in the southern and eastern United States from Thursday into Sunday.

Across the West, the weather looks mostly quiet, though Portland and Seattle could see some rain — part of the same system that may bring snow to the higher elevations.

We’ll time out what to expect in our city-by-city travel forecast.

System 1

Ahead of a cold front sweeping eastward Wednesday, Gulf of Mexico moisture will work northward. That will lead to showers and downpours Thursday, spreading from East Texas in the morning and eventually to Arkansas, southern Missouri and Louisiana. By evening, the showers may sneak into Mississippi and western Tennessee.

On Thursday night, moisture streaming north along the front will lead to rain showers over the Ohio Valley, with heavier downpours rolling across the South. By Friday, a broken band of rain will extend from the Carolinas all the way into Quebec, with light showers along the Interstate 95 corridor in the Mid-Atlantic and New England.

All told, a general 2 to 3 inches is likely in East Texas, with about a half-inch to an inch over most of the South, save for the Florida peninsula. A broad tenth to a quarter of an inch will fall as the light showers work over the Ohio and Tennessee valleys, with similar amounts into New England. South Carolina could see up to a third of an inch.

System 2

On Friday, a storm system will develop over East Texas that will work toward the Red River and southeast Oklahoma on Saturday. Ahead of the storm system, warm, humid air from the Gulf will stream north. That will allow rain over much of central and East Texas on Friday, coming immediately on the heels of System 1.

Behind the system’s center, northerly winds will draw in cold air from the north; moisture wrapping into the storm and riding up and over that cold air will fall as snow. That could drop plowable snow in parts of the Texas Panhandle and Hill Country on Friday. A winter storm watch is in effect.

That system will then bring rain to the Lower Mississippi Valley on Saturday and then the Ohio Valley, Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and Northeast on Sunday.

Where the weather will be wet and unsettled at times

  • Chicago: Mainly dry Wednesday through Saturday afternoon as highs cool from near 60 (Wednesday) into the upper 40s (Saturday). Rain arrives Saturday night into early Sunday.
  • Oklahoma City: Isolated showers Wednesday night through Saturday, but not a washout. Highs in the 40s and 50s, with lows in the 30s.
  • Wichita: Isolated to scattered showers Wednesday night through Saturday (and maybe a rogue snowflake), but not a washout. Highs in the 40s, with lows in the 30s. Sunny and near 50 on Sunday.
  • Washington, D.C.: Dry through Thanksgiving. Some showers possible Friday with upper 50s. Near 60 on Saturday with partial sunshine before showers return Sunday.
  • New York City: Sunny Wednesday and Thursday. Showers likely Friday and Sunday with a pause and partial sunshine Saturday. Highs in the 50s each of the three days.
  • Boston: Sunny and near 50 on Wednesday, with mid-40s and sunshine Thursday. Friday, Saturday and Sunday will be in the lower to mid-50s, with rain possible Friday and Sunday.
  • Atlanta: 60s until Sunday, when upper 50s are possible. Showers and/or rain intermittently from Thursday night through Saturday night.
  • Charleston: Isolated showers Wednesday and Thursday, with scattered showers Friday and Saturday night; an isolated shower lingers Sunday. Highs in the upper 60s, except near 70 on Saturday.
  • St. Louis: Lower 60s and partial sunshine Wednesday. Rain on Thursday and Saturday with only scattered showers Friday. Upper 40s to lower 50s. Brighter skies and near 50 on Sunday.
  • New Orleans: Highs in the lower 70s through Friday, then upper 60s. Sunny on Wednesday, with showers, thunderstorms and rain Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Improvement Sunday. Heavy rain possible.
  • Dallas: Rain and thunderstorms possible intermittently through Saturday morning. Rain totals of 1-2 inches possible. Highs in the upper 50s to lower 60s. Sunshine returns Saturday afternoon. Heavy rain possible.
  • Houston: Sunny with highs near 70 on Wednesday. Showers likely Thursday and Friday, with highs dropping from the mid-70s to the lower to mid-60s. Cool and sunny with mid-60s Saturday before 70s return Sunday. Heavy rain possible.
  • Amarillo, Tex.: Highs in the 60s with sunshine Wednesday. Highs around 40 with mixed precipitation Thursday, with mid-30s and possible snow/rain Friday. Sunshine returns with lower 50s on Saturday and Sunday.

Where the weather will be nice

The weather will be mostly nice across the central and northern Plains, the Rockies and most of the West — save for in Washington state and Oregon. Here’s a look at some sunny cities:

  • Denver: Breezy with lower 50s Wednesday, then cooler Thursday with an isolated snow shower. Highs in the upper 30s. Sunny and pleasant with 50s through the weekend.
  • Minneapolis: Isolated morning drizzle on Thanksgiving, but otherwise sunshine prevails with upper 30s to lower 40s each day through Sunday.
  • Albuquerque: Sunny with 40s and 50s for highs and lows in the 20s.
  • Phoenix: Sunny with highs around 70 each day and lows in the 40s.
  • Las Vegas: Sunny with highs in the mid-60s each day and lows in the 40s.
  • San Francisco: Sunny with highs in the mid-60s each day and lows in the upper 40s.
  • Los Angeles: Sunny with highs in the lower 70s each day and lows in the upper 40s. Sunday may be a tad cooler (upper 60s), with some morning fog.