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Travel experts have long agreed that flying on the day before Thanksgiving is the easiest way to overspend on holiday airfare. The weather forecast for today, the day before Thanksgiving, is adding insult to that injury. For much of the western half of the U.S., conditions are so stormy that flights today are being canceled and delayed left and right.
Two separate storms have been bringing heavy snows and intense winds from Colorado all the way out to the Great Lakes. Snow has already fallen in Denver, where precipitation rates reached two inches per hour – a massive amount when it comes to snowfall – on Monday night. There, nearly 500 flights were canceled yesterday before dusk. Between Denver and Wyoming, as much as a foot of snow was initially predicted to fall, with Kansas, Nebraska, and Minnesota set to experience six to 12 inches of snow. In particular, the Twin Cities of Minnesota experienced enough overnight snowfall last night to seriously imperil today’s flights.
Airport officials on the West Coast have depicted an even direr situation there. The second of the two storms wreaking havoc on Thanksgiving travels could be potentially historic and record-breaking for Oregon and Northern California. There, snow began last night and is expected to last through the holiday tomorrow. Yesterday’s conditions were so dangerous that the National Weather Service urged residents of Southern Oregon to stay in their homes and postpone any travel planned for the day. Today’s weather may not prove much better for travel either.
Although these two storms are bringing snow to the western half of the country, the entire nation may well feel their effects today. As cities battling immense snowfall cancel and delay flights, aircraft bound for airports in regions with good weather will be forced not to fly to their destinations, reducing the number of planes available for use in fair-weather areas and potentially causing additional delays and cancelations. Some have described this phenomenon as a cancelation ripple effect.
Further exacerbating matters is that this Thanksgiving is projected to be the busiest for travel since 2005. While some people may travel by car or public transit, this holiday is expected to draw record numbers of people to airports. The two ongoing storms thus couldn’t arrive at a worse time.
Fortunately, not all the news coming from these storms is so pessimistic. Certain airlines began issuing travel waivers even before the storms arrived and are continuing to do so now. Some travelers flying to or from Minneapolis-St. Paul, depending on their airline, may be able to claim waivers for flights taking place today. Almost all major airlines are offering the same option for Denver flights scheduled for yesterday (and, in rare cases, Monday). Especially lucky passengers in Midwest cities including Omaha, Sioux Falls, and Cheyenne may also be able to claim waivers. Airline customer service phone lines are sure to be flooded, so if you’re concerned about how today’s weather will impact your travels, check your flight status and your carrier’s website for updates and waiver protocol before dialing in.