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Messy Winter Storm Snarls Thanksgiving Travel

People walk through falling snow Wednesday at a rest stop on Interstate 95 outside Baltimore, in Aberdeen, Md.
Mel Evans
People walk through falling snow Wednesday at a rest stop on Interstate 95 outside Baltimore, in Aberdeen, Md.

A big winter storm spinning its way across the East Coast of the United States is expected to wreak havoc on Thanksgiving Day travel plans.

The National Weather Service says that travelers from the Carolinas all the way up to New England could see significant snow, and the entire East Coast will see some kind of precipitation.

Weather.com reports:

"As of late Tuesday, a cold front has stalled off the Southeastern Coast, dumping as much as 5.5 inches of rain in Daytona Beach and 7.61 inches of rain in Port St. John, Florida. In addition, low pressure has begun to spin up along the tail end of the front over the Gulf of Mexico.

"That low will quickly intensify as it moves north-northeastward overnight into Wednesday, most likely staying just off the Eastern Seaboard. This is a classic track for a significant East Coast storm.

"However, as is often the case, key questions remain about the exact outcome from this storm system — and the small details could make a big difference for your travel plans, especially if you will be driving in the Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast on Wednesday or Wednesday night."

Depending on the track, some cities like New York, Boston, and Portland, Maine, could see up to 12 inches of snow. Some places at higher elevations could see up to a foot of snow.

Update at 12:27 p.m. ET. Cancellations Begin:

By early afternoon, Flight Aware, a website that tracks air traffic, was reporting that more than 1,000 flights had been canceled so far.

Airports in New York and Philadelphia appeared to be the hardest-hit.

Travelers make their way through Miami International Airport on Tuesday.
J Pat Carter / AP
Travelers make their way through Miami International Airport on Tuesday.

Update at 9:20 p.m. ET

More than 4,500 flights have been delayed across the country today, Flight Aware reports, while more than 80 flights each out of Newark, Philadelphia and LaGuardia airports have been canceled.

That represents more than 10 percent of the flights scheduled to leave those airports today, a level of cancellations also hit by smaller airports in Maine, Connecticut and Vermont.

Even at some airports with few cancellations, things still have been messy. O'Hare airport in Chicago and Dallas-Fort Worth airport, both major cross-country hubs, have seen more than 200 delayed flights, while a third of flights out of Baltimore's airport have been delayed.

The Associated Press checked in with a few travelers:

"Dan Albert hoped to beat the snow as he, his wife and 15-year-old daughter refueled their SUV Wednesday morning along I-81 in Hagerstown, Maryland, about halfway between their Greensboro, North Carolina, home and their Thanksgiving destination in Mahwah, New Jersey.

" 'Traffic was fine last night, no problems at all, but today's going to be a real booger,' Albert said. But he added: 'Got to see the folks. We only get to see them once a year. Got to muscle through it, right?'

"At a rest stop on the New Jersey Turnpike, tired families grabbed large cups of coffee and breakfasts of pizza and fried chicken before heading back to the slushy road.

"Abdullah Masud, a lawyer who lives in Kuwait, was heading from Boston to Washington with a cousin.

" 'We were originally planning on leaving Wednesday morning, but when we heard about the snowstorm we changed our mind and left Tuesday night. But I don't think it made that much of a difference,' he said, noting the heavy traffic."

The storm systems producing snow — more than six inches in spots — in the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and Eastern Seaboard states should move on by Thursday evening, the National Weather Service says.

Meanwhile on Wednesday, Long Beach, Calif., set a record high at 87 degrees.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.