NEW YORK (WABC) – A severe winter storm will cause treacherous holiday travel and life-threatening cold for much of the country in the run-up to Christmas.

A major holiday week storm will develop Thursday through Friday and bring heavy snow to higher elevations and heavy rain elsewhere, including the New York metropolitan area, along with strong winds.

The millions of people who take to the roads and skies ahead of Christmas may face major challenges to reach their destination on time.

Two-thirds of the country’s flights are likely to be affected by the severe storm on Thursday and Friday, according to AccuWeather meteorologists.

Several major hubs, including Chicago, Detroit and New York, are in the storm’s path and are facing significant disruption. The ripple effect of delays from affected aircraft and crews will be felt across the country.

RELATED: Check out the latest AccuWeather forecast

Delta and American said Thursday and Friday are expected to be the busiest of the season.

Airlines canceled more than 2,600 flights on Tuesday. More than 3,540 additional flights had been canceled by 4:45 p.m. Wednesday, according to Flight Aware. Airlines have already canceled 774 flights for Thursday, according to ABC News.

Check the status of your flight by visiting the relevant airport’s website:

  • Newark Liberty International Airport
  • JFK International Airport
  • LaGuardia Airport
  • The good news is that major airlines are already offering cancellations to force you to reschedule.

    The bad news is that you and thousands of others who want to go home for the holidays will be fighting for the same seats.

    Major carriers at airports outside the region are anticipating the weather to reduce cancellations and delays by offering to waive transfer fees and any fare difference.

    There are restrictions depending on the destination, so go to your carrier’s website and check first.

    United is offering an East Coast winter weather waiver if the ticket is purchased by Dec. 18 for those traveling Thursday through Sunday.

    American also waives the fee if you bought your ticket before Dec. 19 and plan to travel between Dec. 22 and Christmas Eve

    Jet Blue waives Midwest winter weather charges. If you are traveling from our area to Chicago, Kansas, Milwaukee or St. Paul, there are no change or cancellation fees for customers traveling between December 21st and 23rd. You must rebook before Christmas.

    If your flight is cancelled, Scott Keys of Scotts Cheap Flights says you are entitled to a refund for canceled domestic flights.

    If you’re canceling an international payment, check to see if your credit card will reimburse you.

    His advice, if you’re at the airport and your flight is delayed or canceled, get in line and call at the same time.

    Insider tip: Do not call the airline’s main number. Find international office numbers.

    “The reason is that the international office often has very short notices,” he said.

    Next, be proactive: search for spare flights even on another airline and request this flight specifically.

    According to the National Weather Service, “extreme and prolonged freezing temperatures” can be expected as far south as Mississippi in the wake of the storm.

    Meteorologist Lee Goldberg says a hard freeze is possible Friday night and it will be very cold through Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

    If this affects your journey, here are more tips to help navigate the system when flights are delayed or canceled due to staff shortages, weather or other issues.

    And with the possibility of flight disruptions on the rise, here are some tips on how to make sure you don’t don’t lose your luggage amidst the hustle and bustle of travel.

    WATCH: Weather or not with Lee Goldberg: Winter weather forecast


    Check out the AccuTrack radar

    AccuTrack radar, view of New York

    NWS advisories, watches and warnings

    School closings and delays

    Get weather information wherever you go download the AccuWeather app.

    Follow through meteorologist Lee Goldberg, Sam Champion, Brittany Bell, Jeff Smithand Danny Beckstrom in social networks.

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