published Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

SNOW ON THE WAY: Winter storm heads toward Chattanooga area

THANKSGIVING TRAVEL

Here's what you can expect:

• If you fly: Severe weather is not anticipated at airports in Chattanooga, Nashville or Atlanta. But major hub airports could see significant delays and cancellations, especially those north and east of the Scenic City.

• If you drive: Meteorologists suggest putting off travel until later in the day Wednesday, when area snow should subside. Routes toward Atlanta, Nashville or Birmingham shouldn't experience much severe weather, though high-altitude areas could see more accumulation of snow. Those headed north and northeast should take extreme caution. Areas around Knoxville could get more than five inches of snow.

THANKSGIVING AT HOME

Rain and some snow are expected tonight into Wednesday in Chattanooga. Accumulation could range from barely there to 1.5 inches, if temperatures drop below freezing. Expect cold weather. Lows in the low to mid-20s are expected Wednesday and Thursday night, warming to the upper 20s to low 30s by the weekend. Highs are expected to return to the 50s by Friday.

Sources: National Weather Service, WRCB-TV

A winter storm system blamed for at least 10 fatal accidents in the West and Texas threatens to dampen the Thanksgiving holiday for millions of Americans traveling this week.

Nearly 300 American Airlines and American Eagle flights were canceled in and out of Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport on Monday due to the weather, spokeswoman Laura Masvidal said, mirroring disruptions at the air hub a day earlier. Some of the country's busiest airports -- New York; Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia; Boston; and Charlotte, N.C. -- could see big delays.

Icy roads led to hundreds of accidents and at least 10 deaths, half of them in Texas. On Monday, the storm brought a mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain to parts of Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, southern Kansas and Texas. But as the storm continues east, there are fears of heavy rain along the busy I-95 corridor and sleet, freezing rain and snow away from the coast and at higher elevations.

In the Chattanooga area, forecasters expect some rain and snow tonight into Wednesday but probably little accumulation. However, those traveling outside the area should be prepared for more intense wintry weather. Airports in Chattanooga, Nashville and Atlanta anticipate little in the way of disruptions, but major hubs up North could be reeling from weather-related delays and cancellations.

"I would definitely look at travel plans and keep an eye on what's going on, and see what's happening at the place you're going," said Jessica Winton, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Morristown, Tenn. "As far as Chattanooga, it won't be nearly as bad as what's going on up North."

That advice applies to drivers, too.

Nashville and areas on the Cumberland Plateau are expected to receive more sleet and snow accumulation. But the real blast will be in areas north and east of Chattanooga. The National Weather Service predicts that snow will stick in the higher terrain of the Smoky Mountains and the Cumberland Mountains on up into Southwest Virginia.

The Knoxville area is expected to receive as much as 5.5 inches of snow, said David Karnes, a WRCB-TV Channel 3 meteorologist.

As for Chattanooga, Winton predicted that only about one-tenth of an inch of snow will stick. Karnes, on the other hand, said the Chattanooga area could get as much as 1.5 inches of snow if temperatures drop below freezing on Wednesday.

If you're headed out of town Wednesday, it's best to leave late, Karnes said.

"I think the later people can push off traveling in the morning and even the afternoon, the better they'll be," he said.

  • photo
    Workers with Duncan Tree Service remove a tree that fell Sunday on Jack Sullivan's Cutlass parked in the driveway of his Odessa, Texas home, on Monday. Wintry weather with freezing rain, sleet and snow swept through much of West Texas over the weekend, causing power outages and many tree limbs to break under the weight of the ice. Conditions are forecast to improve during the next couple of days.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Meanwhile, forecasters said freezing rain was possible in parts of the North Georgia mountains. A winter weather advisory was in effect for nine counties in North Georgia until 7 a.m. today. The advisory includes the cities of Blairsville, Blue Ridge, Chatsworth, Cleveland, Dahlonega, Dawsonville and Jasper.

Tom Kines, a meteorologist with AccuWeather, said the storm will be "primarily a rain event" for the East Coast, with up to 3 inches of rain dousing travelers.

"The further inland you get -- especially as you get into that higher terrain -- you are going to deal with frozen precipitation," Kines said. Snow could fall in West Virginia, western Pennsylvania and the interior of New England.

Jeff Smidt is traveling Wednesday from his home in Toronto to visit his family in Andover, Mass., just outside Boston.

"My understanding is that I'm traveling at like the worst time ever," he said.

Smidt tried to get on an earlier flight but JetBlue told him it isn't waiving any change fees yet.

"I'm just hoping I also don't become a statistic during the holiday weekend," he said. "Worst comes to worst, it will be an eight-hour trek down Interstate 90."

Ninety percent of travelers this week will drive, according to AAA, and an estimated 38.9 million people -- 1.6 percent fewer than last year -- are expected to drive 50 miles or more from their home.

Gas is about 15 cents cheaper than last year, AAA said Monday, with a gallon of regular selling for $3.28. In Chattanooga, the average price of a gallon of gas has jumped by 10 cents in the past week. Still, gas prices in Chattanooga are 3 cents a gallon below a year ago.

The car-lobbying group and travel agency says Wednesday will be the busiest travel day.

Air travel will be both busier and more expensive than usual this Thanksgiving.

This holiday will likely see the most air travelers since 2007, according to Airlines for America, the industry's trade and lobbying group.

Staff writers Kevin Hardy and Dave Flessner contributed to this report.

, with the busiest day being Sunday, with an estimated 2.56 million passengers. Wednesday is expected to be the second-busiest with 2.42 million passengers.

The average domestic airfare is up 9.5 percent from last Thanksgiving to $313, according to the Airlines Reporting Corp., which processes tickets sold online and by traditional travel agencies.

Adding to the usual stress of holiday travel, though, is the weather that's ahead for much of the country. Already, the storm system dropped several inches of snow last week in New Mexico, Arizona, Oklahoma and West Texas.

Rick Farquer, manager of Oasis Truck Stop in the Texas Panhandle town of Canadian, said traffic was moving slowly but that roads had largely cleared.

Parts of the Panhandle saw snow and freezing rain over the weekend, and temperatures were in the 20s on Monday morning.

"It's something you don't like to see but you have to live with it," Farquer said.

In Dallas, temperatures edged above freezing on Monday, but rain kept the roads treacherous and slick. The storm system left nearly 44,000 homes and businesses without power, most of them in Dallas-Fort Worth, though people in the West Texas cities of Midland and Odessa could be without electricity for a couple of days.

Staff writers Kevin Hardy and Dave Flessner contributed to this report.

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