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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 miles per hour and heavy rain — perhaps accompanied by thunder — to southern 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.
The storm will be moving from Colorado and Nebraska into Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin, tracking almost directly over the Madison area, putting the heaviest snow to the north and west. 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 said.
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 latest road conditions for Wisconsin are available at the state’s 511 website or app.
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.
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 told the Associated Press.
AP reported that 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 40-50 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.
In Madison on Tuesday, there’s an 80% chance for rain, mainly after 4 p.m., with less than a tenth of an inch possible, a high near 43 and north winds at 5 to 15 mph turning out of the east in the afternoon.
The Weather Service said a half to three-quarters of an inch of rain is possible overnight, with thunderstorms possible after 9 p.m. as the low edges down to around 39 and east winds at 10 to 20 mph turn out of the southwest after midnight and gust as high as 25 mph.
There’s a 60% chance for rain Wednesday, mainly before 8 a.m., with less than a tenth of an inch possible, temperatures falling to around 34 by 5 p.m. and southwest winds at 15 to 20 mph turning out of the west at 25 to 30 mph in the afternoon and gusting as high as 45 mph.
After a low overnight Wednesday into Thanksgiving around 27, with northwest winds easing after midnight after gusting to 35 mph, Thanksgiving should be mostly cloudy, with a high near 36 and northwest winds at 5 to 10 mph turning out of the northeast in the afternoon.
Chances for precipitation return at 20% chance for snow Thursday night; 50% for snow before noon Friday, then rain and snow; 90% for rain Friday night and Saturday, with a half to three-quarters of an inch possible; 80% for rain and snow Saturday night; 60% for rain and snow Sunday; and 20% for snow Sunday night.
Skies over Madison should be cloudy Friday through Sunday, and sunny Monday, with highs near 39, 43, 36 and 29, and lows Thursday night through Sunday night around 30, 35, 33 and 21.
27 Storm Track meteorologist Max Tsaparis forecasts rain developing mid-afternoon Tuesday, heavy rain overnight, rain to mixed precipitation ending mid-day Wednesday with strong winds, a possible few light mixed showers late on Thanksgiving, light snow possible Friday, rain possibly mixed with snow Saturday, and a chance for a light rain-snow mix on Sunday.
Monday’s high in Madison was 51 at 1:51 p.m., 12 degrees above the normal high and 11 degrees below the record high of 62 for Nov. 25, set in 1908.
Monday’s low in Madison was 28 at 2:38 a.m., 4 degrees above the normal low and 36 degrees above the record low of 8 below for Nov. 25, set in 1950.
Officially, a trace of precipitation was recorded at the Dane County Regional Airport on Monday, leaving Madison’s November precipitation total (rain plus snow converted to liquid) at 1.49 inches, 0.51 inches below normal. For meteorological fall (September through November), Madison has received 14.13 inches of precipitation, 6.6 inches above normal. For the year, Madison has received 43.72 inches of precipitation, 11.37 inches above normal.
Madison’s record precipitation for Nov. 25 is 0.9 inches in 1952.
With no snow on Monday, Madison’s November total stayed at 7.6 inches, 5.2 inches above normal. For meteorological fall (September through November) and the snow season (since July 1), Madison’s total stayed at 15.7 inches, 12.8 inches above normal.
Madison’s record snowfall for Nov. 25 is 3 inches in 1987.