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Winter storm causes holiday havoc, may ground famed Macy’s balloons

Winter storms continued to cause holiday headaches across a large part of the country Wednesday, stranding some on a highway linking Northern California and Oregon for hours, officials said.

Interstate 5 between California and Oregon reopened Wednesday afternoon. The highway was closed Tuesday after about 100 vehicles, including big rigs, spun out in the winter weather and needed to be removed, Denise Yergenson, chief public information officer for Caltrans District 2, said. Some stayed in their cars for 10 hours, she said.

Chains were required, but “there was a whole lot of people who either didn’t have them, didn’t put them on or something went wrong,” she said. The interstate was fully reopened by 3 p.m. Wednesday.

Cars and trucks in stopped traffic on Interstate 5 near Dunsmuir, Calif., on Nov. 27, 2019.Caltrans / via AP

In New York City, there was some uncertainty as to whether the famous balloons will fly in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

“We really have to see exactly what the wind conditions are going to be. Tomorrow it will be a game-day decision,” said Susan Tercero, executive producer for the parade. “I’m always optimistic.”

If the sustained winds are more than 23 mph or the gusts are more than 34 mph, the parade will go on without the balloons, according to New York City regulations.

“I’m keeping my fingers crossed,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday, adding that the New York City Police Department and the office of emergency management would make the call Thursday morning.

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Areas including western Nevada and Montana and from western Texas to southwestern Wisconsin were under winter weather advisories or watches Wednesday evening, according to the National Weather Service. And wind advisories were in effect from Indiana to New York City.

Thanksgiving Eve is historically the busiest travel day of the year, and AAA said more than 55 million people were expected to pack roads, planes, trains and buses on Wednesday — the most since 2005.

In Minnesota, the state patrol reported 79 crashes from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, 131 vehicles spun out or went off the road, and two semis jackknifed. There were 10 injuries reported but no deaths, the state patrol said.

Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport recorded just over 9 inches of snow by early Wednesday afternoon, the National Weather Service said in a statement, but the airport tweeted earlier that morning that thanks to crews working overnight its three main runways were open.

Thirty-nine flights were canceled and 262 were delayed Wednesday, according to the airport’s website.

A second round of winter weather was forecast for the region Friday through the weekend, the weather service for the Twin Cities tweeted.

The storm system started by blasting Colorado, covering many parts of the state in 20 inches or more of snow Tuesday, with some areas getting more than 30 inches. The 22.2 inches that blanketed Boulder, 25 miles northwest of Denver, was a record for Nov. 26 and the third-snowiest day ever.

Almost 500 arrivals and departures, about a quarter of all scheduled traffic, were canceled at Denver International Airport.

The Denver area was expected to be in the 30s and mostly dry on Thanksgiving, but chances of rain and snow will return on Friday, according to the weather service.

The weather service says that holiday travel issues because of the weather will continue into the weekend.

The storm that produced heavy snows in the Rockies and elsewhere could drop up to 6 inches in parts of New Hampshire and Maine before it moves off the coast Thursday. And the low-pressure system that socked Oregon is expected to bring heavy snowfall to the Sierra Nevada mountains as well as into parts of Nevada.

The Arizona Department of Transportation warned that the winter storm could create “very difficult to impossible” driving conditions in the high country and said that Interstate 40 between U.S. 93 and Winslow, as well as Interstate 17 between Flagstaff and SR 179 near Sedona, could be affected.

The weather service is forecasting up to 2 feet of snow in areas above 6,000 feet and hazardous conditions down to 4,500 feet — which includes much of Yavapai County, the Mogollon Rim and the Grand Canyon.

The California Highway Patrol in Placerville, which is northeast of Sacramento, on Facebook Wednesday evening implored drivers to “slow down!!!!” and said there were “multiple collisions, jackknifed big rig and cows in the roadway” on U.S. 50 westbound.

For those traveling on I-5 from near the California-Oregon border, Yergenson said that more winter weather is expected for the area Saturday. She said drivers should be prepared for snow and should pay attention to weather reports, and should have blankets and water in their vehicles.

“Sunday is a historically heavy, heavy travel day for Thanksgiving,” Yergenson said. “If people can leave Friday or Saturday morning, or if they can leave Monday, that’s a better day to travel.”