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Coldest Thanksgiving in over a century for millions means traffic troubles

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 trip 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 New York's Central Park, you might need your parka.

Here's the forecast for the long Thanksgiving holiday:

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. Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington will all likely see their coldest Thanksgiving morning in nearly a century.

New York may even see its coldest low temperature for the holiday since weather records have been kept in Central Park. In 1901 and 1876, the low got down to 19 degrees Fahrenheit on Thanksgiving. The low in Thursday's forecast now is hovering at 17 F right before sunrise.

Gusty winds of up to 30 mph will lead to wind chills in the single digits for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Boston won't escape the big chill either. It hasn't been forecast to be this cold there on Thanksgiving since 1901 and 1872. In both those years, the temperature got down to 19 F.

The wind chill will make it feel even colder. Boston will struggle to make it to 20 F on Thursday, with 35-mph winds creating a wind chill of minus 5 to 10 degrees.

Wind chill advisories are already posted for parts of upstate New York and New England, with Thanksgiving shaping up to be the coldest on record for many in the region.

Don't expect the temperature to get above freezing -- except if you live in Washington, where it might warm up to 34 F.

• SOUTHEAST: The region also 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 want to stay inside and consider those online black Friday deals this year.

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

• NORTHEAST: Remember the coldest air of the season mentioned earlier? 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

Choosing to fly Saturday? You are smart to 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 at 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 rain mostly 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.