More than 55 million Americans will travel out of town for Thanksgiving in 2023, reflecting a 2.3% rise over the previous year while marking the third-highest projection for the holiday roadtrip in more than two decades, according to AAA. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo
Nov. 17 (UPI) -- More than 55 million Americans will travel out of town for Thanksgiving in 2023, reflecting a 2.3% rise over the previous year while marking the third-highest projection for the holiday road trip in more than two decades,
At least 49.1 million Americans planned to drive to a holiday destination this year, up 1.7% since 2022; while 4.7 million said they would catch a flight, up 6.6%, according to AAA.
About 1.55 million were planning to travel by cruise, bus or train, an increase of nearly 11% compared to last year.
"For many Americans, Thanksgiving and travel go hand in hand, and this holiday, we expect more people on the roads, skies, and seas compared to 2022," said Paula Twidale, Senior Vice President of AAA Travel. "Travel demand has been strong all year, and AAA's Thanksgiving forecast reflects that continued desire to get away and spend time with loved ones."
However, the bustling travel season is on a collision course with two major weather systems that are expected to combine over the central United States this weekend before moving east, prompting early warnings from Accuweather meteorologists to expect heavy rains, strong winds and snowfall in many parts of the country.
Forecasters said to expect rough weather conditions early in the week, saying storms would taper off around midweek, but holiday traffic volume would go up at that time due to increased visibility.
Travelers should expect heavy downpours across Mississippi, Tennessee, and Ohio valleys through Monday, impacting cities like Atlanta, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Memphis, Nashville, New Orleans and St. Louis.
Airlines in the region have already issued travel advisories in anticipation of poor conditions, including low cloud ceiling caused by heavy rains.
A high-pressure system that formed in the Upper Midwest and the Great Lakes was expected to swirl head-on into a second storm system from Canada, bringing storms and heavy rain from Chicago to Detroit through Monday.
The merging storms will bring rain to the eastern Great Lakes and the Appalachians, while dropping snow in areas like Des Moines, Iowa, and Minneapolis and St. Paul.
The weather was likely to play a crucial role in upcoming travel decisions as millions of Americans recall last year's chaos when a massive winter storm in the middle of the holidays stranded thousands of passengers at airports nationwide.
Meteorologists predicted conditions overall to be better this time around as extreme weather events would be isolated to specific regions, including the nation's midsection and much of the eastern seaboard, including many Southern states.
"Across the center of the country, conditions can turn quite windy from Monday and Tuesday behind the storminess," AccuWeather Meteorologist Alyssa Glenny said. "Wind gusts can reach 30 to 40 mph, and perhaps as high as 50 mph, leading to hefty crosswinds for highway motorists as they head to their Thanksgiving destinations."
In the northeast, the high-pressure system was expected to settle in on top of a cold front, which would bring storms over the weekend but pave the way for clear skies and fall-like temperatures next week across New England.
Pleasant weather was expected across the Rockies and the West after that region saw massive rain and snow the previous week; while current forecasts showed the central and southern United States facing the worst travel conditions in the coming days.
Forecasters indicated that smooth weather conditions are expected to be more widespread after the holiday, when millions of turkey-stuffed travelers begin to head back home.
"Ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, a soaking storm can track from the central U.S. toward the East, complicating travel plans," Glenny said. "However, conditions across the Northeast early in the week will be on the calmer side by comparison."