Nightly News   |  November 25, 2013

Thanksgiving week kicks off with weather delays

Millions of Americans will face rain, sleet or snow during their yearly Thanksgiving pilgrimage as a big storm heads east.  Over the next 24 hours, delays can be expected at major highways and airports east of the Mississippi. NBC’s Tom Costello reports.

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>>> on cue and just in time to disrupt the travel plans of millions of americans going home for thanksgiving, a size able storm is gathering strength and moving through the north and east through the busiest airports and population centers in this country. that's why the east coast storm is bound to affect the rest of the country. this one comes after a long warning period. forecasters knew a week ago it was a possibility. now already it's a reality across a big area. we start with with two reports tonight beginning with tom costello at national airport in washington. tom, good evening.

>> reporter: hi, brian. in fact, tens of millions of americans are about to face off against mother nature . at last count roughly 500 flights cancelled system-wise. if you are east of the mississippi traveling by car expect rain, sleet, snow. if you are flying you need a have a lot of patience. mid afternoon at the american airlines dispatch center in dallas.

>> chicago looks like it has a light dusting going on.

>> reporter: all eyes are trained on the weather radar .

>> if that's going to impact a hub or any airport we are well aware of it before it happens and that it will be a possibility and route the airplane appropriately.

>> reporter: the biggest choke point so far dfw with ice and sleet delaying more than 600 flights on sunday. today as the sleet turned to rain cancellations dropped to 300. now the storm is headed for the southeast and midatlantic. in atlanta, the weather warnings are out.

>> heavy rain through the overnight for the morning commute. it will be coming down heavy.

>> reporter: further north in chicago , some folks have already moved out.

>> the best part about flying is we're not driving.

>> i think leaving early takes the pressure off.

>> reporter: just in time flightaware.com unveiled the misery maps highlighting routes that are the most delayed or cancelled in real time . today, denver, dallas, chicago and new york were showing the most red. meanwhile, 39 million americans are hitting the road this week. they were off to on a icy start in oklahoma while in wisconsin, it's snow.

>> the roads here are very, very bad.

>> reporter: in the deep south they are de-icing in memphis. kerry sanders is there.

>> this is what everybody will be doing in the next day or so as they head to a nice turkey dinner . eyes on the road.

>> reporter: while back at american airlines --

>> touch base with northern california .

>> reporter: the next 48 hours will be the big test. let's put numbers to this. if you have 500 flights cancelled, each flight has about a hundred people or so. you are talking about having to rebook 50,000 people. you know flights are packed. there isn't an extra seat between you and the guy on the other side. it is going to be a difficult time if they have to re book that many people. brian?

>> tom costello setting stage at washington national tonight. chris warren