Two storms to torment holiday travelers, including in Upper Peninsula

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

Detroit — Michiganians about to hit the road or the skies for the Thanksgiving holiday might long for the relative calm of home.

Travelers across the country — in the Rockies and the Plains extending to the upper Midwest, including Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, on the West Coast and in the Southwest and the Northeast — will find conditions snowy, rainy, windy or even blizzard-like.

In southeast Michigan, the National Weather Service has issued a hazardous weather outlook that covers 17 counties from Midland, Bay and Huron south to Lenawee and Monroe. A hazardous weather outlook means there is potential for severe weather events within the next seven days. On Wednesday, the area could see wind gusts of up to 45 mph along and south of M-59, the agency said.

7 a.m. Wednesday-7 a.m. Thursday

"We'll have widespread rain (Tuesday night) and strong winds (Wednesday) with gusts of 40-50 mph," said David Kook, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service's office in White Lake Township. "There'll still be some lingering showers on and off tomorrow, but then high pressure will move in Thursday and that will take us into Friday.”

More: Rain, wind may hamper travel, but calm in SE Mich. for Thanksgiving

Jackson-based electric and natural gas company Consumers Energy said Tuesday customers should be alert for wires downed by rain, snow and wind. It also said it has crews ready to respond to power outages. 

In Missouri on Wednesday morning, nearly 20,000 were without power after high winds knocked down power lines.

Blizzard conditions are expected farther north as a system moves into Minnesota and Wisconsin, and eventually dumps snow in the U.P. The weather service has issued a winter storm warning for Houghton, Baraga, Marquette, Alger and Schoolcraft counties in the Upper Peninsula.

The warning is in effect from 1 a.m. Wednesday to 1 a.m. Thursday. Six to 24 inches of snow are expected with the highest amounts probable northwest of Negaunee.  In addition, winds with speeds of 40 mph may mean whiteout conditions.

Wednesday morning, that weather was moving closer to the U.P. Blowing snow was making travel difficult in southern South Dakota and numerous roads in northwest and north-central Kansas were partially or completely snow covered after a storm dumped more than 5 inches. 

Blinding snow was reported early Wednesday in southern Minnesota, where 12 inches or more is expected by the end of the day.

Meg Jones cleans the snow off her car outside her house in Scottsbluff, Neb., Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2019. "I'm glad we don't have school," the Scottsbluff High School junior said.

That precipitation is likely to affect Michigan shorelines. The weather service has issued a lakeshore flooding warning for some areas along Lake Superior. The warning is in effect from 7 a.m. Wednesday to 1 a.m. Thursday. The warning means flooding is occurring or imminent along a lake and nearby residents should be alert for rising water.

Futhermore, the agency said lakeshore flooding is possible along Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. Lake Michigan may see lakeshore flooding Wednesday afternoon and Wednesday night. Lakeshore flooding along Lake Huron is possible Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, according to the weather service.

7 a.m. Thursday-7 a.m. Friday

The weather service has also issued a gale warning for parts of northern Lake Huron from 4 a.m. Wednesday to 7 a.m. Thursday. The warning means winds of 40 to 54 mph are occurring or imminent.

The storm will continue to produce a chance of snow this weekend in interior New England, said Alex Lamers, a National Weather Service meteorologist. “That could be a coast-to-coast storm,” he said.

It also could mean disappointment for fans of the larger-than-life balloons flown at Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York.

Organizers were preparing for the possibility that they’ll have to ground the iconic balloon characters, given 40-50 mph gusts in the forecast. Rules require lower altitudes or full removal if sustained winds exceed 23 mph and gusts exceed 34 mph. The decision will be made on parade day.

A second storm developing in the Pacific Ocean hit the West Coast on Tuesday evening, bringing snow to the mountains and wind and rain along the coasts of California and Oregon.

A “bomb cyclone” weather phenomenon was expected to simultaneously topple trees, knock out power and dump snow as it rolled into California and Oregon.

Forecasters warned of “difficult to impossible travel conditions” across much of northern Arizona later this week as that storm dumps about 2 feet. The National Weather Service’s office in Flagstaff said travel conditions will start to deteriorate Wednesday night, followed by the heaviest snowfall Thursday through Friday morning.  

And Michiganians traveling back to the state may find a mixed bag of precipitation this weekend.

"Another storm system is set to arrive Saturday," said Kook of the weather service in Michigan. "That could bring us rain, possibly mixed with snow that could stay possibly until Sunday."

This month, AAA predicted that the number of travelers over a five-day stretch starting Wednesday will be the second-highest, behind only 2005, despite rising costs for a road trip.

For those who are flying, the airlines expect traffic to be up about 4% from this time last year. Airlines added about 850 flights and 108,000 seats per day on average to handle the increase over last year’s crowds, according to the trade group Airlines for America.

Associated Press contributed to this report.