Snow and rain disrupts Thanksgiving travelers across the country

Storms cause travel nightmare

As millions of Americans travel for Thanksgiving, two major storms are whipping up trouble from coast to coast. Conditions are treacherous, especially in the West and upper Midwest, where heavy snow, rain and powerful gusts are causing wipe-outs on the roads and long delays at airports.

Wind is a major issue, with alerts in 20 states by Wednesday night. Power was knocked out Wednesday to more than 400,000 homes and businesses. The Great Lakes region is among the hardest hit.

Colorado is digging out after more than 15 inches of snow fell in 15 hours in some places. The conditions led to a deadly accident there. In Nebraska, overturned semi-trailer trucks littered the highway. One SUV had to be towed out of a ditch after a record snowfall. There were hundreds of crashes and spin-outs in Minnesota, snarling traffic for miles.

The winter weather has also grounded air travel, delaying or canceling thousands of flights, just as the Transportation Security Administration expected more than 2.7 million people to fly on Wednesday alone.

There are 1.6 million more Thanksgiving travelers than last year, and 90% of the 55 million are doing it by car.

"I think the only way to really get away to get around it is to leave around 3:00 in the morning and just get there before everyone gets up," one driver said.

West Coast emergencies

Dangerous weather hits West Coast

As CBS News correspondent Jonathan Vigliotti reports, travel warnings became emergencies as a dangerous and unusual mix of weather sliced through the West Coast. At least six people were injured in Spokane, Washington, after icy roads caused a 60 car pile-up.

Near Redding, California, hundreds of drivers spent the night sleeping in their cars, trapped in snow on the state's main interstate. Video from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows a bomb cyclone. The rapidly forming storm packing 100 miles per hour wind gusts walloped Oregon. 

Visitors seeking sun anywhere in the West were out of luck. Hannah Fulks arrived at Los Angeles International Airport from Dallas, Texas, where it was almost 10 degrees warmer.

"I was surprised I didn't see any sun at all," she said.

Temperatures in Los Angeles were in the 40's, downpours caused bumper to bumper traffic and the runoff even led to a risky swift water rescue after a man got trapped in the quickly rising Los Angeles River.

  • Kris Van Cleave

    Kris Van Cleave is the transportation correspondent for CBS News.