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Calm weather, heavy traffic to greet Thanksgiving travelers

(CNN) -- Tranquil weather will accompany most Americans heading to a loved one's dinner table for Thanksgiving. But they might feel a little heartburn on the return home Saturday and Sunday, given the traffic congestion and dicey conditions in the forecast.

And if you plan on playing the traditional touch football in Central Park, you might need your parka.

Here's the forecast for the long Thanksgiving holiday:

Wednesday

Most of the country will be under dominant high pressure, bringing sunny skies from the Southeastern coast to the Central Plains.

Don't blame the weather for your delays Wednesday. The thousands of extra people who don't fly very often likely will slow down departure times.

• NORTHEAST: A clipper will bring some snow across the interior Northeast. Behind this system will be the coldest air since last season (more about this later).

On Wednesday evening, some snow showers could develop around New York, but the biggest concern could be strong winds moving into the city, delaying flights.

• WEST COAST: There will be a few trouble spots. Major airports such as San Francisco, Seattle and Portland, Oregon, will see low clouds and rain affecting departure and arrival traffic.

Along the California coast, Highway 1 and US 101 will have rain. Interstate 5 through the Central Valley will have showers. And snow is likely on Interstate 80 through the Sierra Nevada.

Thanksgiving

Decent weather and the fact many folks have already headed out make this perhaps the best day to travel during the holiday week. However, if you are watching a certain parade at Herald Square in Manhattan, wear your long johns and maybe five other layers.

• NORTHEAST: It's going to be a brutally cold day in the Northeast. New York will see low temperatures in the 20s Thanksgiving morning. Central Park could see its lowest Thanksgiving Day temperature since 1901. That year it got down to a bitterly cold 19 degrees Fahrenheit. Right now the forecast low is hovering between 20 F and 22 F right before sunrise.

The lingering winds will make it feel like the temperature is in the teens across most the area.
And did we mention, don't expect the temperature to get above freezing all day long.

• SOUTHEAST: The region will see below-average temperatures but nothing unreasonable. There will be some cloud cover or even a few showers along the Gulf Coast and across Florida.

• MIDSECTION: The Plains and the Midwest will remain blustery. Some cloud cover will begin to move east throughout the day for the Plains.

• THE WEST: The West Coast storm system moves inland. Rain spreads down the coast to Los Angeles and snow settles into the mountains west. It's a welcome sign if you are expecting to do a little Thanksgiving skiing.

Friday

You might consider those online black Friday deals this year.

• SOUTHEAST: You can still stay dry if you do your shopping early, but by evening the South is looking soggier.

• NORTHEAST: You remember the coldest air of the season that was aforementioned? Friday morning lows will be even colder. The good news is the high temperature will climb a little higher than it did Thursday and the winds will have died down a little.

• MIDSECTION: That rainy weather will be scattered like your leftover buffet, from Minneapolis down to New Orleans, starting midday.

• WEST: Did I mention powder skiing? Seriously, you might want to consider waxing your board or skis before Friday. Rain continues for the West Coast, from Seattle to San Francisco.

Saturday

If you chose to fly Saturday, you are smart to try and avoid the Sunday crowds. But you are going to have to deal with some weather in the East.

• SOUTHEAST: Have you ever heard of the wedge? It is a weather pattern that makes Atlanta feel like Seattle -- but only colder. The low clouds and light rain will likely contribute to delays at the nation's busiest airport.

This pattern can also make driving treacherous across the Appalachians. An icy wintry mix is possible for the mountains Saturday, from the Carolinas to Pennsylvania.

• NORTHEAST: The timing is uncertain, but precipitation, most likely in the form of rain, will affect the region, leading to some moderate delays in the major airports and compounding delays already seen across the South.

• MIDSECTION: Rain remains, with snow in the upper, upper Midwest (almost Canada).

• WEST: Snow lingers in the Rockies, with leftovers for a little après-ski. There are also some showers still in Northern California, but most of the West Coast just stays cloudy with less precipitation.

Sunday

You are stuffed and tired, and now you have to travel home. The forecast is still days out and could easily change, so take the following with a grain of salt.

• NORTHEAST: It is never good when you start off the day with delays. That might just happen Sunday morning. Northeast metro areas could see rain early and throughout the day. Most of the wintry precipitation should stay sequestered farther north into Maine.

• SOUTH: It looks like the misery of Saturday's rain will have subsided, but the residual hangover may still have some effect on travel. Low clouds could be an issue in the early morning.

• MIDSECTION: A low exits the Rockies and brings snowy conditions from light snow in the front range, across Kansas. Most of Missouri stays on the warmer side, with mostly rain in places such as St. Louis.

• WEST: It finally dries out, so you might be able to get a sunny ski session in before battling the roadways. The drive up and down the West Coast will be tremendously better than it was Wednesday.

All in all, the weather this week is much better than in previous years so most of you won't be able to use it as an excuse. Don't think you're going to be able to get out of turkey and turmoil with your in-laws.

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