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'All hands on deck' at MSP Airport for pre-Thanksgiving snowstorm

It could be tough travel conditions for people going in and out of MSP.

The day before Thanksgiving is usually dubbed as the busiest travel day of the year, but that's not exactly the case at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, where they are gearing up for large crowds amid a looming snowstorm Tuesday night into Wednesday. 

"It's a little higher than normal but it's not our busiest day," said John Welbes of the Metropolitan Airports Commission. "It's going to be in the low 40,000s with people coming through security."

Welbes says all hands will be on deck for what he expects to be a busier than usual second half of Tuesday and Wednesday morning. His advice is to try and arrive two hours before a domestic flight and three hours ahead of any international destinations. 

But with snow in the forecast, things get tricky for travelers. 

"We're watching the forecast closely and we're ready for this weather if it materializes," said Welbe. 

A winter storm warning is in effect for a large chunk of Minnesota, including the entire seven-county metro area for late Tuesday through early Wednesday. Up to a foot of snow is possible in the metro, according to the National Weather Service, which notes that gusty winds could also cause travel problems. 

"The wild card people have to take into consideration is their commute time to the airport," says Welbe. "If the roads are in rough shape then you're going to want to give yourself some more time to get here.

While delays and cancellations are always possible due to inclement weather, MSP Airport will have its full fleet of snow-clearing equipment ready to try and keep up with what could be heavy snow falling during the storm. 

"Normally when we close runways, it's because the rate of the snowfall is so fast that the plows are having trouble keeping up," Welbe says. "They can plow it and then right when they're done there's another 1/2 inch within 10 minutes or so. That's usually what causes the problems. 

"If it's a slow rate snowfall we can usually keep at least one runway open." 

So how fast and furious is snow with this storm expected to fall?

According to the forecast discussion from the Twin Cities office of the National Weather Service, snow could fall fast and furious, up to 2 inches per hour for a couple of hours to begin, then slow to a more modest, yet still pretty significant .75 inches to 1-inch per hour rates. 

In the metro, the heaviest snow is forecast to fall between 9 p.m. Tuesday and 6 a.m. Wednesday. 


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