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Nor’easter Likely to Bring Thanksgiving Travel Chaos to Northeast

Nor’easter to impact tens of millions 1:55

Millions of Americans planning to take to the roads and skies for Thanksgiving face travel chaos because of a storm that's forecast to batter the Northeast on Wednesday. Meteorologists said Tuesday that the nor'easter was likely to hit on a day when more than 46 million people across the nation were expected to journey 50 miles or more.

The nor'easter is expected to throw a variety of misery at travelers, from a slushy mixture and rain and snow and 30-mph winds in Boston, New York City and Washington, D.C., to as much as 16 inches of snow in western Massachusetts. "Travel is not going to be a lot of fun for people trying to get to Grandma's house on Wednesday," said Kevin Roth, lead meteorologist at The Weather Channel. Major airports would be lucky to escape without significant delays, Roth said.

As it has in previous winter holiday seasons, the Defense Department will open up unused military airspace for commercial flights Wednesday through Sunday. The airspace, mainly on the East Coast and throughout the Gulf of Mexico and the Southwest, will make available "more highways in the sky that we can move planes through to get people to their destination efficiently," said Michael Huerta, administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration.

The National Weather Service issued winter storm warnings and watches across a huge, icicle-shaped area from the Canada border to western North Carolina. The snowfall totals will be largest in an interior swath from the Poconos to Maine.

While temperatures reached a sunny 70 degrees in some areas Monday, they could plummet as much as 40 degrees in the next 48 hours. The rising and falling temperatures could cause headaches in western New York following last week's history-making snowfall. Temperatures rose into the 60s Monday, melting some of the snow choking the Buffalo area and putting much of the area under a flood warning.

Business was nonstop Tuesday at Aubuchon Hardware in Greenfield, Massachusetts, where an all-day snowstorm was expected Wednesday.

"It's been all morning — shovels, sand, ice melt, brushes for the car," Tim Seymour, the store's manager, told NBC station WWLP of Springfield.

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— Alexander Smith and M. Alex Johnson