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Storm Systems Crashing Across Country Turn Post-Holiday Travel Into A Slog


Good morning - or is it? Maybe not if you are traveling. The weather is a beast today across much of the country as millions head home from the holidays facing snow, rain, heavy winds and many, many delays. Here's NPR's Merrit Kennedy.

MERRIT KENNEDY, BYLINE: This Thanksgiving weekend has already seen severe weather in many parts of the country. In Tusayan, Ariz., right by the Grand Canyon, a foot and a half of heavy, wet snow that started on the holiday knocked out the town's electricity.

CRAIG SANDERSON: When the power went out, that made things especially difficult.

KENNEDY: Mayor Craig Sanderson said the one gas station in town was out of commission. The roads were impassible, and hundreds of people were visiting his town on the night of the storm.

SANDERSON: So people were walking out on the highway in order to get from their hotel to get something to eat because a lot of the hotels didn't have food service without electrical power.

KENNEDY: The town set up a shelter and declared an emergency. Early on Saturday, crews were finally able to restore power, and traffic is moving through the roads again. But as hard-hit areas like this are digging out, storms are bearing down on other parts of the country and will likely complicate travel at the end of the holiday weekend.

Lara Pagano is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

LARA PAGANO: OK, so we have two main systems we're concerned about across the U.S.

KENNEDY: The first is what she calls a coast-to-coast winter storm. This system started the holiday weekend on the West Coast and has tracked steadily east. Now, after creating blizzard conditions on the High Plains, the storm is expected to dump snow and kick up high winds in the Great Lakes region today.

PAGANO: So we're seeing travel impacts for the Upper Midwest into the Great Lakes.

KENNEDY: Later in the day, the storm is predicted to hit states in the Northeast.

PAGANO: If you're trying to travel in to New York or Connecticut, Massachusetts, those areas, you're starting to get the onset of some snow into those regions as well.

KENNEDY: The second storm forecasters are worried about is bringing the West Coast heavy rain and gusty winds.

PAGANO: It's just this plume of moisture that's moving into - around San Francisco Bay region and the coastal ranges. And it's really helping to squeeze out a lot of that precipitation.

KENNEDY: Pagano says rainfall totals in California will likely be among the highest in the country on Sunday. The Sierra Nevada Mountains could get hit with multiple feet of snow at higher altitudes and near-whiteout conditions.

Merrit Kennedy, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Merrit Kennedy is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers a broad range of issues, from the latest developments out of the Middle East to science research news.