Thanksgiving Weather Delays

winter storm scene with cartoon turkey

Thanksgiving Weather Delays
| published November 26, 2014 |

By Thursday Review staff


Weather has a way of rendering the best-laid plans obsolete, and for millions of people in the United States and Canada, Thanksgiving-week travel may become inconvenient, treacherous, and in some cases, downright impossible.

That means that for millions who had planned to travel by car, they won’t enjoy the benefits of those unexpectedly low prices at the gasoline pump. For hundreds of thousands of others in the U.S. who were planning to travel by airline, flight delays and flight cancellations may severely rearrange those vacation and holiday plans. All told, transportation officials, aviation companies, and highway patrols in a dozen states say that millions may miss the family turkey, green bean casserole, and cranberry sauce.

Indeed, oil prices may be at their lowest since 2011, but heavy snows, sleet and freezing rain, and even flooding could cause major stretches of east coast interstate highways to be impassable and closed to those wishing to take advantage of a break at the pump.

Interstate 95, the busiest corridor along the east coast, is expected to be hit the hardest by a massive storm which has already dumped record levels of snow across eight northeastern states, and has inundated large swaths of the southeast in so much rain that many U.S. highways and interstates have been temporarily closed. Some sections of I-95 may be layered in ten to 12 inches of snow, and officials in those states are advising travelers to make plans to drive alternate routes—or better still avoid driving altogether. The highway patrols in several eastern seaboard states have recommended staying at home—or very near home—if you were planning travels along that normally busy corridor which stretches from Houlton, Maine to South Miami, Florida.

The major airlines are all facing difficulty for the next few days. Snow and ice—mixed in among dangerous thunderstorms—have forced the cancellation of thousands of flights. United had already cancelled more than 100 flights as of early Wednesday morning, and Delta and American were also expected to cancel several hundred flights each. By mid-afternoon on Wednesday the two largest airports serving New York City had cancelled more than 600 flights, with expectation of as many more cancelations throughout the evening. Hundreds of shuttle flights were cancelled between the major urban hubs of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. There were also cancelations in Newark, Charlotte, Greenville-Spartanburg, and Providence.

Many major airports have requested that all ground crews and equipment crews be available to work, but in some cases—airline spokespersons say—it simply won’t be enough to contend with the snow and ice. Airport pedestrian crowding has become such a problem over the last 48 hours that Homeland Security officers in selected airports have relaxed the rules regarding the removal of shoes at metal detection points and the removal of toiletry items in carryon baggage. And in an effort to speed up passenger movement, some security screeners are reducing the number of “random” searches and checks (not necessarily the most comforting thought for some passengers).

Those luckiest of air travelers who managed to actually get a flight somewhere along the greater Eastern Seaboard faced the distinct possibility of a rough flight—lightning, turbulence, sudden drops in altitude, seatbelt signs alight the whole way.

Air travelers are being advised to make sure they provide cell numbers and email addresses for all ticketing transactions in case of delays. Airport security and staff say they prefer people to wait at home if flights are delayed, as opposed to being stuck in already crowded airports where services may become spread thin. Delays can range from a few hours up to 10 hours, and officials want to discourage unnecessary local driving if, in fact, a flight has been canceled altogether.

The National Weather Service was predicting a mix of heavy rain and moderate snowfall for New York and New Jersey.

Related Thursday Review articles:

Holiday Cheer: Low U.S. Oil Prices; Thursday Review staff; Thursday Review; November 26, 2014.