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Thanksgiving outlook: Brutal cold, snow to blast Midwest as a storm may eye the East

AccuWeather logo AccuWeather 5 days ago Alex Sosnowski

While warmth builds in the Southwest, re-surging cold air may trigger frequent snow in the Great Lakes and help spin up a storm along the East Coast around Thanksgiving Day.

Following a storm and shot of cold air that sweeps across the northern part of the nation into this weekend, there is the potential for very cold air to take root over the Midwest during the long Thanksgiving weekend.

"If early indications are correct, some locations may be buried under feet of lake-effect snow, while gusty winds sweep cold air from the northern Plains to the Gulf Coast, Appalachians and eventually the Atlantic Seaboard," according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson.

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It is during that press of arctic air, when another storm may come about with a swath of steady rain, ice and snow in the Northeast.

At the jet stream level, a piece of the polar vortex may break loose and settle near the Great Lakes. The jet stream is a high speed river of air at the level where jets cruise at.

The polar vortex is a storm around the same level of the atmosphere as the jet stream. Usually this storm hangs out near the Arctic Circle and keeps frigid air contained. However, when this storm weakens or shifts position, cold air may be discharged to mid-latitudes anywhere around the globe.

"The cold outbreak with lake-effect snow from the Midwest to the central Appalachians may last a couple of days or perhaps right through the Thanksgiving weekend," according to AccuWeather Meteorologist Evan Duffey.

"In terms of an East Coast storm, we are not looking at a powerhouse event, but rather more of the nuisance variety," Duffey said.

That storm will carry the potential for drenching rain along the Interstate-95 corridor from Washington, D.C., to Philadelphia and New York City around Thanksgiving Day. The same storm may bring snow or perhaps a rain to snow situation for the Appalachians and some sort of wintry precipitation combination for New England.

The details such as timing of the storm will become clear in the coming days. There is a chance that the new wave of cold, dry air will already be on the move to the coastal Northeast by Thanksgiving Day.

In the South, areas from the Mississippi Valley on west are likely to be dry with the cold sweep already established. However, at least part of the southern Atlantic Seaboard may face rain, prior to the sweep of dry, chilly air.

"In the West, most areas west of the Rockies, including California, Nevada and Arizona are likely to be dry, warm and sunny for much of the Thanksgiving holiday and the weekend that follows," Duffey said.

There may be an exception to the dry weather in part of the West.

"Clouds and rounds of rain are likely to be swept ashore from the Pacific Ocean into part of the Northwest," Anderson said.

At this point it appears snow levels may be above most of the major passes in Washington, Oregon and Idaho for the four-day Thanksgiving weekend. High snow levels in this area should give those hitting the roads in the region peace of mind.

AccuWeather will continue to provide updates on the weather for Thanksgiving Day, as well as conditions expected for travel prior to and after the holiday.

In the meantime, winter is targeting areas of the Midwest and interior Northeast for an early start. Now is the time to make sure you, your vehicle and home are set up to handle the inevitable in the days and weeks ahead. Have shovels, ice melting compounds and warm outerwear on hand.

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