If the weather forecasters are correct, George Poole knows he can expect a flurry of uninvited guests for Thanksgiving: cold, rain, a biting wind, maybe even a dusting of snow. That will make his task more difficult, but it won't dampen his holiday spirit.
This weekend, Poole and 30 relatives and friends are celebrating by decorating his in-laws' Hagerstown, Md., house with outdoor Christmas lights. His father-in-law, Frank Newcomer, who is 81 and uses a wheelchair, just had cataract surgery. This will be the first time in five years that he'll be able to vividly see the lights.
"We'll get it done," said Poole, 52, of Germantown, as a cold wind blew past the shops of Bowie Town Center yesterday. "It means so much to him."
Across the region, people are bracing for what meteorologists predict will be one of the coldest Thanksgiving day weekends in a decade. Some are determined not to let the weather dictate their holiday plans, but others are cutting back their "Black Friday" shopping lists to spend more time indoors.
"I've been anticipating this," said Robert McClain, 48, of Bowie. He said he has reinsulated his home because he's expecting 25 relatives this weekend, including some with asthma. "I don't want anyone to get sick. I want them to go home."
Temperatures are expected to dip in some areas into the low 20s, levels typically seen here in late December or January. Rain is expected tonight, and light snow is possible in the Washington area. Any accumulations would be in the mountainous areas to the north and west.
"The big story will be the temperature," said Howard Silverman, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sterling. "It will be cold."
Thanksgiving day is expected to be warm and cloudy with some rain, opening a short window of opportunity for outdoor fun. By Friday, expect chilly weather to settle in until it gives way to higher temperatures Sunday, meteorologists said.
The cold is not expected to disrupt travelers on the road today or tomorrow.
"For anyone playing football on Thanksgiving, it should be decent weather, but doing it the day after won't be nice," said Ray Martin, a meteorologist with AccuWeather. "This is a good weekend to stay inside and go shopping, especially on Friday when everyone wants you to go shopping."
Katrina Williams, 35, is not taking any chances. The day after every Thanksgiving, the Upper Marlboro mother of two travels to outlet stores in Hagerstown to take part in Black Friday, dubbed the biggest shopping day of the year. She gets there at 6 in the morning, spends eight hours and finishes her Christmas shopping that weekend.
This time, she said, "everything depends on the weather." She's already planning to spend only three or four hours and has cut back her shopping list.
"I'll do as much as possible, and when it becomes unbearable, we'll go back some other time and finish our list," Williams said. "Because it is cold up there."
April Fitzpatrick, 28, usually spends time Thanksgiving weekend taking her two children to play in the park. This year, she plans to stay indoors: "I don't like the cold weather too much."
But the cold is unlikely to stop her from seeking great deals Friday. In fact, she's concerned that the cold might drive more people to the malls than usual.
"They have nothing else to do," she said.
McClain is planning all sorts of indoor activities for his visiting relatives. He has playing cards, Nintendo games hooked up to one television, Xbox games on another. Then, of course, he's planning to watch football.
McClain is so concerned about the cold weather that he has asked his relatives to bring cooked turkeys so he doesn't have to step outside for anything. But he knows he won't be able to stop his children.
"It could be a ton of snow outside, and they'll be out there playing," he said.
Poole hopes he can stay outside for as long as possible to set up the Christmas lights.
"We'll do whatever we can before we freeze," Poole said.
He knows his father-in-law will appreciate it.