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Horrible weather just in time for the holidays

By: Jennifer Waters, Market Watch

The hustle and bustle of what’s still considered the traditional liftoff to the frenzied holidays and shopping extravaganza could never be complete without the complement of a lousy weather forecast.

Here it comes, just in time to help you chart your travel and shopping plans over the Thanksgiving weekend.

Winter storm-watch alerts already are in place for most of the northeastern seaboard — yes, a dreaded Nor’easter — with projections of as much as 12 inches of the wet white stuff in the upper corners of New England.

New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania are looking at eight to 10 inches and Weather.com is calling for “significant amounts” of snow from the interior of Pennsylvania to as far west as Kentucky.

As is usual, winter weather advisories are on for much of the upper Midwest and Montana and parts of Idaho. Rain will be the issue for much of the West Coast while the rest of the country basks in tepid temperatures.

That’s the bad news and it’s all going to swoop in Wednesday evening into Thanksgiving Day night.

“Travel will be miserable on Wednesday,” says Scott Bernhardt, president of weather analysts Planalytics.

Weather havoc translates into what climate trackers call “travel-inhibiting events,” meaning flights will be tardy, even canceled at key airports nationwide, and roads will be congested with bumper-to-bumper autos moving at a turtle’s pace.

Schneider’s Weather Service Group, an analytics arm of Schneider Electric, has tagged 12 major airports as “Thanksgiving travel hazards.” It includes the usual suspects of O’Hare, Minneapolis-St. Paul, La Guardia, JFK, Newark and Logan as well as Dulles, Reagan, Philadelphia and Baltimore-Washington, plus Portland and Seattle. Not a great start to a long, oftentimes harried weekend.

But come Thursday, all will be well in the U.S. weather world, says Ronald Sznaider, vice president of weather at Schneider’s Weather Service. “There will be no showstoppers on Thanksgiving, per se, and things will really have quieted down by Friday,” he insists.

That’s the good news, for the most part. The mad snow dump that hit Buffalo, N.Y., last week is projected to be a flooding problem later into the weekend.

And if you plan to start your holiday shopping this weekend at Destiny USA in Syracuse, N.Y., the Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, Ill., or the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., be sure to bundle up and prepare for some snow flurries.

Schneider’s did the legwork for you and mapped out the top 10 shopping centers and malls in the U.S. and their corresponding wintry prognostications. The weather forecasts for those three project light snow and below-freezing temperatures, as low at 10 degrees at Mall of America. Even still, it could be worse at Destiny where lake-effect snow could pile up.

It won’t be a whole lot nicer at Pennsylvania’s King of Prussia Mall or the Roosevelt Field Mall in Garden City, N.Y., but it looks like you’ll be in fine stead in most shopping centers in California or Florida, according to Schneider’s.

As for the rest of the year, many experts predict a thankfully milder winter session than most of us suffered through last year. Don’t get too cocky too fast, though. There will still be frigid icy, very cold weather this winter — just not for the intolerable long bouts that persisted in January, February and March, both Planalytics and Schneider’s say.

“There will be very, very cold outbreaks in January again, particularly in the eastern half of the country,” Sznaider says. “But the difference will be that we expect moderation much earlier this year compared with last year,” he adds.

Last year, temperatures almost everywhere were anywhere from eight to 12 degrees below normal. This season, they’ll be below normal again in some choice spots, just not so much, he says.

But Bernhardt reminds us that weather is much like politics: It’s all local and relative. “If you consider 30 degrees cold and the week before it was 50 degrees and then it’s 30, it feels really, really cold. If it was 35 and then dropped to 30, it wouldn’t be so bad.

“Of course, for people in Atlanta, 30 degrees and 3 inches of snow is a whole lot different than 30 degrees and 3 inches for people in Chicago,” he adds.

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