Make weather forecast part of Thanksgiving getaway plan


Drivers on I-95 will see plenty of other drivers, but no sunshine on Tuesday or Wednesday. (Robert Thomson/The Washington Post)

The pre-Thanksgiving storm described by the Capital Weather Gang is likely to mess with many of our fine-tuned calculations about the holiday getaway.

The Gang says a “highly energetic storm” will trouble our travels at mid-week. While this may start and end with a wintry mix, it’s the heavy rain in between that will have the greatest impact on drivers getting out of the D.C. area. So starting Tuesday morning, pay attention to the potential for slick spots, but focus like a laser on the forecast for driving rain by the time many people will want to be driving Tuesday night. The rain should decrease gradually during the day Wednesday, but may end as a brief period of sleet or snow, especially north and northwest of the District, the Capital Weather Gang says.

Thanksgiving Day may bring blustery winds, but the storm should have passed by then. So if you were on the bubble about starting your trip Monday evening or perhaps waiting till Thursday morning, the Gang’s forecast makes those look like good travel times. But watch for a midday Monday update on that forecast.

And don’t obsess about the wintry mix element in making a calculation about the overall state of traffic on Tuesday and Wednesday. The most important thing to keep in mind is that we knew Tuesday and Wednesday would be heavy days for getaway traffic. Precipitation — in any form — slows traffic dramatically.

From our strategizing sessions about getaways, I know that many of you plan long trips to the northeast, south and west. Getting through the traffic in the D.C. region will be your first hurdle, but don’t let down your guard. This is a big storm. Many of the routes we’ve discussed will take you through higher elevations where rain can quickly become ice or snow.

Join me at noon Monday for our weekly online discussion of traffic and transit issues in the D.C. region, during which we can trade information on getaway planning.

If you’re flying, check with the airline, because delays are very likely. Here’s a review of some traffic information sources for those driving away from the D.C. area.

  • Virginia, Maryland and most other East Coast states are part of the 511 information system. Motorists can dial 511 from within the states and get up-to-date information on travel conditions.
  • Delaware isn’t part of that system but does provide traffic updates to travelers who tune their radios to WTMC (1380 AM). Delaware also has a Twitter feed with traffic updates: @DelawareDOT.
  • In range of New York, check all-news WCBS (880 AM) or WINS (1010 AM) for traffic reports every 10 minutes. The WCBS reports are on the 8s, and the WINS reports are on the 1s.
  • The I-95 Corridor Coalition is a source of  information on travel conditions from Florida to Maine.
Robert Thomson is The Washington Post’s “Dr. Gridlock.” He answers travelers’ questions, listens to their complaints and shares their pain on the roads, trains and buses in the Washington region.

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Dana Hedgpeth · November 25, 2013

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