Heavy snow, sleet, rain muck up Thanksgiving travel: Where will it be worst?

The busiest travel day of the year is turning out to be even more harried than usual for Northeast and mid-Atlantic travelers, as a winter storm bears down on the East Coast.

Mike Tripp/The Daily News Leader/AP
Motorists brave the falling snow as they head south on Interstate 81 near Staunton, Va., Wednesday.

Millions of travelers hit the roads and skies Wednesday for the annual pilgrimage to grandma’s house – or wherever they planned to give thanks and feast on Thursday. But for many in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions of the United States, the journey is shaping up to be a doozy, with rain, sleet, and snow clogging highways, grounding flights, and just generally complicating the busiest travel day of the year.

The storm could affect as many as 20 million people from as far south as Virginia up through New England, according to The Weather Channel. The storm will likely pelt regions along the coast with rain, while many residents further inland are already experiencing heavy snow. The rain/snow line is expected to hug the Interstate 95 corridor for the duration of the storm.

“The biggest question mark is what happens along the I-95 corridor,” National Weather Service meteorologist Walter Drag wrote in his morning forecast, according to NJ Advance Media. “Temps look marginal – certainly above freezing at the start of the event, cooling during it, but how much? … A degree or two can make a world of difference here.”

Snow accumulation rates are difficult to predict, but The Weather Channel suggests that areas of eastern Pennsylvania can expect between 5 and 8 inches. New York and much of New England may see a minimum of 8 inches with more than a foot possible by Thursday afternoon in parts of western Massachusetts, southern New Hampshire, and coastal Maine.

Emergency crews began mobilizing Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning to keep roads as clear as possible. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo banned commercial traffic from I-84 Wednesday from Connecticut to the Pennsylvania border. Still the driving conditions are dangerous in many areas.

Many travelers attempted to get a jump on the storm and headed out early. Several major airlines waived their rebooking fees so passengers could switch to earlier flights, but most planes were already filled. By early afternoon, more than 550 flights had been cancelled and thousands more are expected to be severely delayed. 

This report includes material from the Associated Press.

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