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Thanksgiving Travel… Oh The Joy Of Traffic & Long Lines

17 Nov 2012, 2:11 pm

Provided you aren’t a turkey, this time of year is considered festive and joyous, as the holidays bring about a time of togetherness and peace.  Unless, of course, you are one of the millions that have to travel, where the roads, rails, and airways become extra packed as families and friends gather all across the country to sit and break bread and carve a turkey on Thanksgiving.  Often times, we will see nice and pleasant weather, albiet a little on the cold side, especially across the northern portions of the country.  But every now and then, Mother Nature will throw us a curve ball.

The weather can be a real downer as the Autumn season can send a slew of weather towards the US mainland.  Nor’easters can form and impact states from Maryland to Maine, large rain storms can come ashore in the northwest and produce mountain snow, strong to severe storms are possible across the midwest and into the southeast and we can’t forget that the hurricane season doesn’t officially end until November 30th, so we can always have one of those lovely storms come around.

While looking at the weather picture today, there are only really two areas of concern.  That would be the southeast coast, especially in the Carolinas, and over in the west coast, from San Francisco up to Seattle and westward towards Wyoming.  Two storm systems are making for some wet and windy weather this weekend, while the rest of the country sees High Pressure dominate the landscape with tranquil and mild weather.  Here is the latest Infrared Satellite imagery.  Notice the two areas of Low Pressure that are bringing rain to the east and rain and snow to the west.


The storm system out in the northwest is forecasted to push alot of moisture onto the region and then once the cold front arrives, will cause the chilly air associated with it to drop the rain as snow in the mountains.  The Cascades could see snow levels drop between 3000-5000 feet and heavy, wet snow could come down and impact travel on the mountain passes.  This storm is just one of a series that will bring a tremendous amount of rain to the area.

By looking at the Satellite & Radar Loop above, you see clearly that the precipitation is coming on to the western portions of Washington and Oregon.  Rainfall totals will be adding up over the next several days to very impressive levels.  A forecasted 5-13″ or more is possible from the Cascade Mountains and to the west.  This would impact major cities such as Seattle, Portland, Eugene, Salem, Olympia, and Medford.  Those are just the cities on the I-5 corridor.  For the coastal towns, they would see heavy rain, winds over 40 MPH and rough surf.

So if your travels take you to the west coast, especially the northwest, you might want to make sure your booked trips do not have any huge delays and if you are traveling by car, make sure that it is up-to-date with all its fluids and is safe to go long distances.  The last thing you would want is to be stuck in a broken car in a long-lasting storm.

AAA always gives out its projections for travel during the holiday season (as well as other holidays like Memorial Day and 4th of July) and this is an excerpt from website about what the travel organization has said.

“According to the AAA, Thanksgiving 2012 Travel Forecast, this year will be busier than last, but not by much.

According to the report, AAA estimates 43.6 million Americans will travel more than 50 miles from home between November 21st and November 25th, up 0.7 percent from 43.3 million people during the holiday last year.

Some 90 percent of this year’s travelers will be hitting the roads, 39.1 million of them traveling by automobile. And as Thanksgiving approaches, gas prices are expected to continue on a downward trend into the holiday.”

So with that in mind, many folks may have already left on Friday or Saturday to get a jump start on the Thanksgiving travel.   Here is the latest national map for forecasts for tomorrow, Sunday, in case you’d like to hit the road and get to your destination before the busiest travel day of the year is here.The trouble spots to worry about will be in the northwest and down the I-5 corridor to San Francisco.  Elsewhere, it will be rather quiet.  The I-95 Corridor from South Carolina to northern Florida will see some rain showers and gusty winds, but no where near as bad as the northwest.

Other roads of concern will be the I-90 that travels from Idaho to Washington.  You should pack chains and make sure you have snow tires on in case you run into some winter weather.  The I-84 from Washington to Oregon to Idaho will see a mix of rain, wintry mix, and snow.  The I-80, from San Francisco, to Reno, to Salt Lake City, will be of a big concern as you go through the Sierra Nevadas.

If you are flying out on Wednesday, PLEASE give yourself an extra few hours to get to the airport and go through security.  The airlines will not let you board the plane if you can not check your luggage and most of them stop checking luggage about 45 mins to over an hour before the flight takes off.  The worst airports to have any weather impact them would be the big three of NYC (JFK, LaGuardia and Newark), Atlanta and Chicago.  But it looks like the weather will hold up nicely. So at least Mother Nature will do her part, you just have to get yourself to the airport early, Early, EARLY!!!!  Here is the forecast map for Wednesday.  The problem area will still be in the northwest corner.  Seattle’s Sea-Tac Airport may have some delays with take offs and landings.

A few folks will also be traveling on Thanksgiving day itself, especially in the morning hours.  The roads will be treacherous in the northwest, once again, but from San Francisco to Billings, to Little Rock, to NYC, the weather will be a breeze to deal with.  Here is the forecast map for Thanksgiving Day.  Take care everyone and safe travels, no matter where you go.  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Meteorologist Addison Green

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