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A holiday week forecast to be thankful for – except in Southtowns, Southern Tier

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First snow

Morning snow starts to accumulate on a bison and a pumpkin on Seneca Street in Buffalo, Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021.

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As travelers hit the roads and skies for Thanksgiving this week, they'll be gobbling up generally good weather in most places – including here in Western New York.

Except for some lake-effect snow – yes, snow – in parts of the Southtowns and Southern Tier on Monday, forecasters say it'll be mostly clear and dry locally through Thanksgiving morning, before conditions get unsettled again by next weekend.

"Really, from later Tuesday through Thanksgiving morning it should be dry," said Heather Kenyon, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Cheektowaga.

That's good news for the approximately 53.4 million people expected to pack the airports and roads for this year's holiday – a 13% increase from last year and an almost complete return to pre-pandemic levels, according to AAA. That includes an estimated 48.3 million who are expected to drive, 4.2 million that will fly, and another 1 million going by bus, train or even on a cruise.

Tuesday and Wednesday are projected to be the most expensive and heaviest travel days for airline passengers, who will pay 27.3% less than last year for the average lowest airfare, at $132, the group said. But midrange hotel rates have risen 39%, the organization added, with average nightly rates running between $137 and $172 for hotels approved by the AAA.

The average gas price nationally is $3.41 per gallon, versus $3.57 across the state and $3.46 in the Buffalo-Niagara Falls area. That's up sharply from a year ago, when the state average was $2.22 and the local average was $2.19.

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“This Thanksgiving, travel will look a lot different than last year,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel. “Now that the borders are open and new health and safety guidelines are in place, travel is once again high on the list for Americans who are ready to reunite with their loved ones for the holiday.”

The Weather Service expected a "strong cold front" to come through Western New York Sunday night, bringing some rain and dropping temperatures, Kenyon said. Those showers were expected to turn to snow by Monday morning, with scattered snow showers throughout the day, and increasing Monday night and into Tuesday morning.

But it'll mostly occur south of Buffalo, in traditional Snow Belt regions that will see "upwards of about 5 inches," Kenyon said. By contrast, the city will see perhaps an inch, with little to no accumulation in the northern suburbs.

So far this season, she added, the Weather Service has recorded a total of 3.5 inches of snow at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport and south of the city, but it's come in "bits and pieces" rather than in one shot.

Conditions will turn breezy Monday and into Tuesday, with highs in the mid-30s. "It will have that wintery feel around," Kenyon said.

Then temperatures will warm up by midweek and Thanksgiving, returning to the mid to upper 40s, with mostly dry conditions, she said. There is a chance of some widespread rain showers later on Thanksgiving Day, but it's "just a chance," she added.

However, "it does look like it gets more unsettled" beginning Friday and into the weekend, with a chance of snow, Kenyon said, so "keep an eye on the forecast going into the weekend."

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Car rental agencies were caught out this year, as spring and summer travel sprang back suddenly in response to rising COVID-19 vaccination rates and caused a surge in demand that companies couldn’t meet, having sold off large portions of their fleets when the pandemic hit. This, of course, drove rental prices sky high, especially in destinations where travelers were flocking en masse, such as Hawaii.

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