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Travel woes from winter storms pile up for Americans

The National Weather Service expects significant travel impact across wide swaths of the US over the weekend

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Delays started to build from Saturday at major airports including Denver, Minneapolis and Chicago's O'Hare International, according to the FlightAware website.

Washington

MILLIONS of travellers heading back from their Thanksgiving holiday could be caught up in a fast-moving winter storm making its way east from California to the Midwest and beyond.

The National Weather Service (NWS) expects significant travel impact across wide swathes of the US this past weekend as the storm is chased by a second weather system. Parts of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are under a winter storm watch starting Sunday morning. New York City officials are bracing for messy roads Sunday and Monday.

Delays started to build from Saturday at major airports including Denver, Minneapolis and Chicago's O'Hare International, according to the FlightAware website. More than 3,850 flights into, out of or within the US had been delayed by 4pm Saturday. Utah-based regional carrier SkyWest Inc bore the brunt of the delays and cancellations.

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"A powerful storm continues its eastward movement this weekend with heavy snow, powerful winds, and areas of wintry mix spreading across the Northern Tier," the weather service said in an advisory. Rain and thunderstorms, some severe, are expected further south in the Lower Mississippi, Tennessee, and Ohio valleys.

Blizzard conditions are already impacting the High Plains and around Duluth, Minnesota, on the shores of Lake Superior. Widespread snowfall of 25cm or more is likely, with as much as 50cm or more in places.

Severe storms are also possible in the lower Mississippi Valley on Saturday, and the East Coast faces a blizzard Sunday night into Monday.

The NWS predicted snowfall for much of New York's lower Hudson Valley, interior north-east New Jersey, and interior southern Connecticut from Sunday morning. Adjacent areas could have a wintry mix of precipitation starting Sunday afternoon. The weather service warned of an icing threat starting Sunday afternoon and continuing through much of Monday.

New York City could see some snowfall by Monday, starting early Sunday as flakes, then turning to sleet and later to rain by afternoon and becoming a mix of rain and snow on Monday with light to moderate snowfall by Monday night.

"You could face messy conditions on Sunday, so exercise caution and give yourself lots of extra travel time," Emergency Management Commissioner Deanne Criswell said. "For Monday's commute, I encourage you to use mass transit where possible." The city's Department of Sanitation has 705 salt spreaders ready to begin work once slight snowfall occurs, officials said.

North-central Massachusetts could have up to 20cm of snow from Sunday through Tuesday, rendering travel "very difficult to impossible", the NWS's Boston bureau said. Boston may see significant snowfall as well.

Some 55 million travellers were expected to make trips of 80 kilometres or more this Thanksgiving, according to AAA, a federation of motor clubs. That's the second-highest volume for the holiday since 2005.

The vast majority of holiday travellers drive to their destinations, and were helped this year by lower petrol prices. But flights are also packed - AAA said about 4.5 million Americans were expected to fly during the Thanksgiving holiday this year. BLOOMBERG