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Best times to leave and avoid the snow


WASHINGTON – Wow. This really couldn’t have happened at a worse time. People
gearing up for Thanksgiving travel are now keeping their eyes glued to the
ever-changing forecast. Let’s get started.

We have a Winter Storm Warning for areas west (pink) and a Winter Weather
Advisory (purple) for several D.C. suburbs because of the chance for snow
accumulation through the day on Wednesday.

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The onset of the system looks to be trending earlier and earlier. We will have
rain spread into the region from the south to the north during the early
morning hours (between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m.). The rain will quickly turn to snow
along the Interstate 81 corridor as cold air is pulled into the system from
the north and west. The cold air will eventually infiltrate counties to the
east of I-81 and snow will spread to the east through the morning hours.

Travel

I do believe that the biggest impact for driving will be between 10 a.m. and 3
p.m. So if you can head out Tuesday night to alleviate any travel tie ups,
that would be the best bet. However, let’s be realistic – people still have
to work on Wednesday (including me) so I wanted to break down some travel
advice for you.

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  1. Heading North:

    The best thing would be to get ahead of the storm and try to make it out by
    7a.m. Wednesday. (The farther south or west of D.C. you are, the earlier you
    should try to hit the road). If you can’t leave early in the morning, then I
    would wait until late Wednesday night or early Thursday morning. I can’t rule
    out some slick spots but hopefully by Thursday morning, the roads will be
    treated. At that point, you won’t be dealing with precipitation and wet roads
    because most of the precip will have moved north and east.

    Expect minor accumulations (less than 1 inch) along Interstate 95 from
    Fredericksburg (or points south) all the way through Philadelphia. This
    stretch will see mainly rain, causing wet roadways. North of Philly, there
    could be some snow to deal with on this busy interstate.

  2. Heading South: This really depends on what route you are traveling.
    • I-95: If you are traveling south on I-95, you will most likely
      hit rain with perhaps a few wet snowflakes mixed in (depending on how late you
      leave). Some of the rain will be heavy at times and it will continue down
      through the Virginia/North Carolina state line, especially before noon. If you
      can wait until after 7 p.m., and the system is well to the north, I would say
      that is the best time to depart.

    • I-81: This is going to be a tricky drive. The snow will start
      spreading up the Shenandoah Valley and along I-81 during the overnight hours
      into early Wednesday morning. I am sure the roads will be treated but there
      could be some accumulation on the roads. The system should be over by the
      evening but there will still be slick roads. Your other best bet is
      Thanksgiving morning. If you travel during the day Wednesday, be assured that
      you will hit snow.
  3. Heading West:

    All of the major highways around the region will be impacted by the wet
    weather (I didn’t include I-95 in this list, but let’s be honest, we all know
    when it is dry this highway is still terrible so just bank on that).

    Once you get out of Western Pennsylvania, you will start to dry out if
    you are headed toward the Ohio Valley. If you are headed toward
    Kentucky, then you will have to worry about a clipper system late
    Wednesday afternoon and into Wednesday night that could bring some rain that
    will change to a light icy mix.

(Check the weather conditions along your travel route with this tool from the National Weather Service.
Just click in the upper right hand corner on the car and map out your location
and destination.)

Because this rain/snow event will begin earlier in our western suburbs, these
counties will see higher accumulations.

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Temperatures are going to be the main factor in determining just how much snow
will fall. But I do believe some areas along the I-81 corridor could see 3 to
6 inches of snow. Some isolated areas, especially higher elevations, could see
more than 6 inches.

This is going to be a heavy, wet snow so it will be difficult to accumulate
but if it snows long enough (which it should) the snow will overcome the warm
roads and eventually accumulate.

Inside the Beltway, roads should be just wet. But if we get a heavy snow band,
that could generate some slush on the roadways. These totals will continue to
be updated as the storm approaches. This is a tricky storm to forecast exactly
where the rain/snow line will fall. But this is the best bet as of Tuesday
afternoon.

Obviously the first areas to see accumulations all around the region will be
on the grassy surfaces until the road temperature can cool. Because the I-95
corridor will have more of a rain/snow mix with more warm air in place for a
longer duration, those areas will have the lowest totals.

Everything will move out from the southwest to the northeast during the
afternoon and into the early evening hours. We will have a breeze from time to
time too on Wednesday, around 10 mph on average.

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Most of us will see rain at the onset early Wednesday morning. Some of that rain could be moderate to heavy in spots decreasing visibility when driving.

Thanksgiving Forecast

Speaking of that clipper system in Kentucky, yes, we could see some snow on
Thanksgiving in our area from that piece of energy. I am not expecting much in
accumulation as it will sweep on through. But we could see some light rain
showers/light snow showers moving through during the mid-morning hours to the
early afternoon hours on Thanksgiving. Temperatures will be in the lower 40s
with partly sunny to mostly cloudy skies.

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South of D.C. will mainly see rain (again, heavy at times). But if you are traveling north, this will give you a good idea of what areas will be impacted by possible snowfall.

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