NWS warns of rapidly changing weather conditions across the U.S., impacting Thanksgiving travel

us wch november 19 - 20 2023

A vigorous cold front is currently sweeping across the western United States, bringing a mix of high-elevation snow, coastal and valley rains, and strong winds, as reported by the National Weather Service. This weather pattern is expected to rapidly progress eastward, potentially impacting Thanksgiving travel with a series of severe thunderstorms, heavy rains, and snowfall anticipated to hit the central and eastern regions of the country early next week.

The western United States is currently experiencing the onset of a vigorous upper-level trough, as forecasted by the National Weather Service (NWS).

This system, making landfall on the West Coast, is triggering a range of severe weather conditions. The Pacific Northwest is the first to face the brunt of this system, with coastal rains, high-elevation snow, and strong gusty winds starting today, Sunday, November 19, 2023.

As the cold front associated with this trough moves inland, it is expected to bring sharply falling temperatures across the Intermountain West and the Great Basin by tonight (LT). In response to these conditions, wind-related advisories have been issued in several areas.

Simultaneously, a low pressure system is developing over the central High Plains. This system is gaining strength from the upper trough’s eastward movement. Showers and thunderstorms, already forming ahead of this low pressure area, are predicted to expand east and northeast in the coming days.

The central Rockies and High Plains are likely to experience prolonged mountain snows and lower-elevation rains through Monday and into Monday night. The severity of the weather is expected to escalate by Monday, November 20, especially in the Deep South, as a warm front lifts northeastward, drawing warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico.

As the storm system progresses, the National Weather Service forecasts that by Tuesday morning, November 21, the low pressure center will reach the Ohio Valley. This will result in widespread rainfall extending from the lower Great Lakes down to the interior Southeast. Thunderstorms could reach severe levels across the Mid-South and possibly the central Gulf Coast, as the dynamic cold front continues its eastward sweep.

This evolving weather pattern poses a significant risk for travel disruptions, particularly as millions of Americans prepare for Thanksgiving travel.

In addition to these developments, colder air from Canada is expected to introduce a light wintry mix in the upper Midwest by early Tuesday. Interior New England is also anticipating an arctic front today into tonight. However, the East Coast is likely to remain mostly dry until Tuesday morning, when the leading edge of the Ohio Valley storm’s moisture arrives.

Temperature variations will be notable across different regions: seasonable on the East Coast, slightly below average in New England, and mild over the northern Plains. In contrast, the West will experience below-average temperatures following the passage of the upper trough, with coastal areas maintaining near-seasonable highs.

The National Weather Service advises residents and travelers across the affected regions to stay informed and prepare for rapidly changing weather conditions. Travelers are especially urged to plan ahead and anticipate potential delays and disruptions. State and local authorities are likely to issue additional advisories and safety information as the situation evolves. The public is encouraged to monitor local weather updates and heed any warnings or advisories issued.


1 Short Range Forecast Discussion – NWS Weather Prediction Center College Park MD – 300 AM EST Sun Nov 19 2023

Featured image credit: NWS (Valid 08:00 EDT on November 19 – 08:00 ED on November 20, 2023)


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