Thanksgiving weather forecast update: What you need to know before you travel

David Oliver and Doyle Rice, USA TODAY

Thanksgiving travel may be a big headache this year thanks to potential snow, ice, rain and more across the U.S.

The Mid-Atlantic coast and Ohio Valley will face a storm this weekend, bringing rain, ice and snow to the region. Most precipitation for the upper Mid-Atlantic and New England should occur Saturday night.

"The snowiest conditions are likely on Sunday over central and northern New England as the storm strengthens, pulls colder air in from the north and manufactures cold air in place," per AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson. Depending on how the storm shifts, though, snow could move further south.

Things should clear up for much of the Northeast on Monday and Tuesday. But the reprieve may be short-lived for other parts of the country.

What the weather looks like closer to Thanksgiving

A sprawling storm in the central U.S. could wreak travel havoc in the days right before Thanksgiving: Snow, rain and even thunderstorms remain possible across the region. 

The Mississippi Valley and Midwest could be hit the hardest depending on which way the storm tracks, according to AccuWeather, on Tuesday into Wednesday (just as Thanksgiving travel reaches its apex). For now, most of the impact looks like it will land Tuesday, potentially sparing travelers on Wednesday.

There is the potential for heavy snow and winterlike travel conditions with substantial delays to spread from eastern Colorado and northeastern New Mexico to parts of Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan as Thanksgiving travel surges, AccuWeather said.

This coincides with the worst time to hit the road, which is Wednesday afternoon, according to INRIX, a global transportation analytics company that partners with AAA to compile holiday travel data. 

Flights could be disrupted because of high winds and not necessarily snow, low visibility and thunderstorms, according to AccuWeather.

Areas farther to the east are also in the line of fire: "There is a chance the storm turns far enough to the east to allow some snow and/or a freeze-up in parts of Indiana, Ohio and western Pennsylvania late Wednesday and Wednesday night," AccuWeather meteorologist Max Gawryla said.

The same storm could also bring heavy rain and potentially severe thunderstorms across portions of the South.

"Depending on how quickly this storm system strengthens, we could be contending with severe thunderstorms from Arkansas and Louisiana through southern Indiana and western portions of Kentucky and Tennessee," according to AccuWeather senior meteorologist Randy Atkins.

How will I know if my flight is delayed or canceled?

Keep an eye on the forecast, and at the first sign of a significant storm, check your airline's website for travel waivers/alerts. To avoid stranding passengers, airlines frequently let travelers change their flights to an earlier or later day without the usual penalties. The time period varies by airline and severity of the storm. The earlier you take advantage of the waiver, the better, for the most flight options.

If your schedule is flexible, you might end up with a better flight than you booked.

You can also look for your flight status via your airline's mobile app and/or sign up for flight update notifications and emails. You should contact your airline directly with any specific concerns.

My flight got canceled. What do I do now?

Don't panic (well, try not to). Contact your airline about refund or rescheduling options, and do your best to be patient if these problems are widespread.

Heads up: Holiday travel basics for infrequent flyers: 6 things to know if you haven't flown lately

Necessary: 8 things to do now to make Thanksgiving flights go more smoothly

Contributing: Hannah Yasharoff, Dawn Gilbertson

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Thanksgiving weather forecast 2019: Rain, snow possible; travel tips