Weather forecasts for the Upper Midwest could hardly be worse for what traditionally is the busiest travel day of the year: the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.
While a powerful storm system delivers winds gusting as high as 55 mph and heavy rain — perhaps accompanied by thunder — to parts of Wisconsin Tuesday night into Wednesday, up to a foot of snow will fall in northern and west-central Wisconsin, with strong winds gusting to 35 mph.
Snow will rapidly develop across southern Minnesota after 5 p.m. Tuesday and spread northeastward across southern Minnesota into central Minnesota and west central Wisconsin through midnight, ending from west to east Wednesday, the National Weather Service reports.
La Crosse is right on the transition line between rain and snow, and could see no snow to 2 inches, while Wausau could see 3 to 7 inches, Eau Claire 4 to 8 inches, Rhinelander 5 to 10 inches, Hayward 6 to 11 inches, and Ashland 8 to 14 inches, the Weather Service said. Wisconsin Dells could see an inch, but Madison should see only rain.
A winter storm warning is in effect for much of northern and west central Wisconsin from 9 p.m. Tuesday to noon Wednesday, while a wind advisory is in effect for most of southern Wisconsin from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday.
"Conditions will likely deteriorate quickly across northeastern Iowa and southeastern Minnesota into Wisconsin, during the evening" on Tuesday, AccuWeather Meteorologist Tyler Roys said.
AAA predicts that the number of travelers over a five-day stretch starting Wednesday will be the second-highest on record, behind only 2005, despite rising costs for a road trip.
The Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area could see its biggest November snowfall in nearly a decade, and travel is northwestern Wisconsin “is going to be chaotic,” National Weather Service meteorologist Brent Hewett said.
The storm also could mean disappointment for fans of the larger-than-life balloons that are flown at Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York. Organizers of the parade were preparing for the possibility that they’ll have to ground the iconic balloon characters with 40 to 50 mph gusts in the forecast. Rules put in place after several people were injured by a balloon years ago require lower altitudes or full removal if sustained winds exceeded 23 mph and gusts exceeded 34 mph. The decision will be made on the day of the parade.
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