Winter storms cause US travel chaos ahead of Thanksgiving holiday

Two major storms continue to track across nation, bringing a miserable mix of rain, snow and wind from coast to coast.

    Over 600 flights have been cancelled as heavy snow hits western US [AFP]
    Over 600 flights have been cancelled as heavy snow hits western US [AFP]

    As millions of people in the United States head home for the Thanksgiving holiday, the weather is set to cause widespread disruption.

    Two major winter storms continue to track across the nation, bringing a miserable mix of rain, snow and wind from coast to coast.

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    In the state of Colorado, the Denver metro area has already picked up 30cm (one foot) of snow while the western sections of Boulder have seen up to 50cm (1.6 feet). The biggest accumulation so far is 80cm (2.62) near Estes Park, Colorado, the National Weather Service said.

    The heavy snowfall that has already disrupted travel in Denver is currently heading to Minneapolis-St. Paul airport in Minnesota and is expected to bring nearly a metre of snow (3.2 feet) to the Midwest.

    At the same time, another storm will hit the West Coast with hurricane-force winds and rain, and heavy mountain snow across the California and Nevada mountains, bringing yet more travel disruptions on one of the busiest travel days of the year.

    Residents along the coast of California are bracing for more than a soggy Thanksgiving week. Some areas could see high waves, and heavy rainfall could cause flooding from San Diego to Los Angeles.

    About 21 million people from the west Coast to the Great Lakes are under some kind of winter weather advisory. In southern California and Arizona, 17 million people are under flash-flood watches.

    The northern Rockies are getting a pounding, with a snow storm producing blizzard conditions, while the Plains and Upper Midwest are next on the list.

    More than 300km (186 miles) of Interstate 80 have been closed for nearly 24 hours due to the heavy snow, the Wyoming Department of Transportation said.

    Across the state and in neighbouring Nebraska, drivers are dealing with black ice, blowing snow and reduced visibility.

    "We have been advising people to stay off the road," said Nebraska State Patrol media director Cody Thomas.

    For travellers in the deep south and across the Ohio River valley, things will get off to a slow start.

    The rain will make for poor visibility as the rain system pushes east throughout Wednesday afternoon.

    In the northeast, travel delays are expected, as rain and strong wind linger from midday through the evening and from Atlanta to New York, storms could interrupt air travel on the eve of the biggest American holiday of the year.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies