Thanksgiving brings brief respite from worst of snow, winds

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Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG

Snow falls along the Interstate 5 freeway at the Tejon Pass as travelers try to get in and out of Southern California for the Thanksgiving holiday, Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2019. Plows were running and CHP was guiding traffic in an attempt to keep the freeway open as long as possible.(David Crane/The Orange County Register via AP)

Wintry weather temporarily loosened its grip across much of the U.S. just in time for Thanksgiving, but travelers were bracing for heavy snow and blizzard conditions in some areas as they made plans to return home.

The wind, ice and snow that tied up major highways and airports Tuesday and Wednesday largely let up Thursday, with a notable exception in California, where the main north-south Interstate 5 was shut down in Southern California as heavy snow blanketed the region. The lanes in both directions were reopened hours later.

High winds that had ripped a wooden sign from scaffolding on Chicago’s Willis Tower and nearly felled the Christmas Tree to close Cleveland’s Public Square Wednesday were calm enough by Thursday morning to allow the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York to proceed, albeit with balloons flying at lower levels.

The National Weather Service predicted things could get dicey — if not impassable — for holiday travelers’ trips home. Forecasters warned against travel Friday night through Saturday night in a stretch of country from northeast Wyoming to northwest South Dakota due to expected blizzard conditions.

The next storm system was expected to drop up to 2 feet of additional snow from the Sierra Nevada to the central and northern Rockies as it rolls across a large swath of the western and central United States.

“Instead of telling you the whole spiel of when not to drive, we think it’s easier to give the advice of just staying home this weekend,” said a tweet from the National Weather Service in Reno. “It’ll be a mess out there and we want everyone to enjoy their holiday weekend.”

Long stretches of two interstate highways in northern Arizona’s high country also were expected to be closed between late Thursday and early Friday because of expected heavy snowfall.

High winds also caused power outages in parts of the country, which crews scrambled to address Thursday.