With hordes of Thanksgiving travelers packing their bags, a winter storm is making a mess of air travel over much of the country, even here in sunny Florida.
A mass of frigid air that brought freezing rain to Dallas and 10 inches of snow to southwest Oklahoma will give way to a second storm moving east, creating havoc for Thanksgiving travelers and the coldest temperature in months for Tampa Bay residents.
Dozens of flights into or out of Tampa International Airport have been canceled due to foul weather at airports from Dallas to Chicago to Baltimore, and further delays or cancellations are likely.
The airport is prepped to deal with stranded travelers who might need blankets, cots or a place to spend the night, said spokeswoman Janet Zink.
As many as 55,000 people are expected to travel through TIA on Wednesday and Sunday, the two busiest travel days for the Thanksgiving holiday, according to AAA.
Zink said travelers should check with specific airlines if they're worried about delays or cancellations.
Beyond travel headaches, the winter storm will bring the Tampa Bay area its coldest weather in months.
Strong storms are expected as far south as Tampa as the cool front moves through the area late Tuesday and early Wednesday, said Bay News 9 meteorologist Juli Marquez.
Behind the front will be cooler, drier air that will drop temperatures into the low 40s in the Tampa Bay area and the 30s immediately north of Tampa. The coastal area will be slightly warmer.
On Thanksgiving Day the high temperature will not climb out of the 60s, with most areas in the low to mid-60s.
"Tampa Bay and much of Florida is going to be feeling much cooler air for the holiday,'' Marquez said.
A gradual warming trend is expected over the weekend, with the high on Saturday and Sunday rising into the low- to mid-70s under partly cloudy skies.
Claire Wiseman can be reached at [email protected] or (727)-893-8804. Follow @clairelwiseman on Twitter.