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Weather across US could make Thanksgiving travel messy

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A sprawling storm system will bring strong winds, rain and some snow to the eastern half of the country leading up to Thanksgiving.

(CNN) — Thanksgiving holiday travel could be a messy one as forecast models continue to show the potential for plunging temperatures and a "significant storm" in the coming week.

Depending on where you live, it may be best to leave early. Not everyone has flexibility in their travel plans, but if you do, Friday and Saturday appear to be better days than Sunday through Tuesday.

Traveling by airline for the holiday? You may be in for a bumpy ride.

Stay on top of the latest delays and the most recent forecast models

Here is the day-by-day breakdown.

Friday

On Friday, rain and snow showers will be moving through Yellowstone National Park all the way to the Pacific Ocean.

Elsewhere, it will be fairly tranquil, but the temperature change might be a bit of a shock to the system.

"After a warm Thursday in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast with temperatures in the 60s and 70s, Friday will feel much more like November," said CNN Meteorologist Taylor Ward. "Highs on Friday will be 20 to 25 degrees cooler with most locations struggling to get out of the 40s."

The only above-average temperatures will be in the areas between Arizona and North Dakota.

Saturday

The nicest travel day may be Saturday since the vast majority of precipitation will only happen in the intermountain West. Snow and rain showers will occur in areas of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and western Colorado.

After Saturday, travel is expected to become a bit more hazardous.

Sunday

Starting Sunday, many more states will feel the impact of snow, ice and dangerous winds.

From the Great Lakes down to the Gulf Coast, rain will be the primary threat, though snow showers will mix in at times in areas of the upper Midwest.

Rain in Detroit, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, Nashville, Memphis, and Pittsburgh may lead to some airport delays as well as traffic jams on interstates and highways.

Overall, rainfall accumulations are expected to be around one inch or less, but some isolated spots could pick up as much as two inches.

On Sunday, strong winds are expected to begin to kick up in the northern Plains, shifting to the Midwest by Monday. This could lead to significant airline delays as well as very bumpy flights over some locations.

Monday

On Monday, the cold front is forecast to extend from New York down to Florida, with rain and wind being the main threats.

Cleveland, Chicago and Detroit are expected to experience gusty crosswinds that could lead to flight delays.

"Significant airline disruptions are possible from the Great Lakes to the Northeast with winds gusting over 50 mph in some locations," says CNN Meteorologist Chad Myers.

Even as far south as Knoxville and Atlanta could be looking at gusty winds on Monday.

"Models are predicting wind speeds inside the jet stream to be over 190 mph in places," Myers said. "Pilots will be looking for the smoothest air to fly in, but many passengers are sure to hear 'Ladies and gentlemen, please keep your seat belts securely fastened.'"

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are also expected to be quite windy in the Northeast, potentially causing some flight delays in Boston, New York and Washington, D.C.

Monday also should mark another big day of temperature swings across the U.S.

Much of the Midwest and Ohio River Valley temperatures will be well below normal. Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Detroit, Nashville, and St. Louis will all have high temperatures 10 to 15 degrees below seasonal averages.

The above-average temperatures will be limited to the area from Denver all the way up to the Canadian border, where high temperatures will be 15-20 degrees above normal.

Tuesday

By Tuesday, there will be lingering snow shower chances along the eastern Great Lakes, but we are also watching a new low-pressure system pushing into the Mountain West. This storm will become the focal point of travel troubles in the Midwest on Wednesday.

Keep in mind there is still enough uncertainty in the evolution of this system to allow for other possibilities regarding precipitation types because if the temperatures are warmer by just a few degrees, it will mean the difference between snow and rain for several states.

Timing is also important because the European model nudges this storm along a little faster, whereas the American forecast model is a bit slower. Forward speed is also important in determining how long it lingers over a particular area.

Mother Nature might also be getting her holidays confused thanks to big swings in temperatures.

From Cleveland, Ohio, down through Miami, Florida, temperatures on Tuesday will average 10-15 degrees below normal, making it feel more like Christmas than Thanksgiving.

Quite the opposite for the intermountain West and High Plains regions, which will be 10-20 degrees above normal Tuesday, resembling Halloween temperatures more than Thanksgiving.

Wednesday

On Wednesday, there is a triple dose of travel troubles ahead. The first is the storm that may still be lingering over the Northeast continuing to bring rain, snow and gusty winds that could make roadways and runways a mess.

The best snow potential would likely be from lake effect snow on the Great Lakes and along the Appalachians, from the Carolinas northeastward.

The second will be the storm entering the Midwest. Rain, snow and even ice are possible for Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois, which could be very dangerous for both road and air travel.

The third is the system moving through the Mountain West. Snow showers are possible for Denver, Salt Lake City and Cheyenne, Wyoming.

"Across the northern tier, the combination of low temperatures and wind would produce cold wind chills," the WPC says.

Thanksgiving could feel more like Christmas

Hopefully, you will have made it to your destination by next Thursday, but if not, the good news is that there are relatively few areas expected to have poor weather on Thanksgiving.

Temperatures should rebound mostly back to normal by Thursday for much of the eastern half of the U.S, but keep in mind that "normal" can still be cold.

For example, New York will likely see temperatures in the low 40s, so for anyone that might venture out to watch the big morning parade, make sure to bundle up.

What about the return home? While it is too far out to get a really good handle on the forecast for the weekend after Thanksgiving, two areas look to have more potential than others for dicey travel: the Pacific Northwest and the Gulf Coast region.

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