The Washington Post

Super soak, slide, slap: Pre-Thanksgiving East Coast storm a travel nightmare

Traveling along I-95 or within a few hundred miles of it Tuesday and Wednesday will not be fun.

We can thank a storm in the South exploding up the East Coast Tuesday and Wednesday, carrying tremendous amounts of moisture. The storm will deposit copious amounts of rain (1.5-3 inches, with locally higher amounts) over a wide area, with heavy snow possible on the storm’s western flank (6-12 inches).  Howling winds, in addition, will pelt coastal locations.

Total precipitation forecast by the European model Tuesday through Thursday (

The combination of these weather hazards are sure to slow travel and make it a less than pleasant experience.  The information below is intended to help you know when conditions will be worst in different areas, so you can try to plan accordingly.

When will the heaviest rain fall?

Here’s a rough timeline (subject to minor changes) as to when conditions may be worst for different cities:

Atlanta to Raleigh: Tuesday morning into the afternoon (7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday)

Raleigh to Richmond: Tuesday afternoon and evening (1 to 9 p.m. Tuesday)

Richmond to Baltimore: Tuesday evening to very early Wednesday morning (7 p.m. Tues. to 3 a.m. Wed.)

Baltimore to New York City: early Wednesday morning (1 a.m. to 9 a.m.)

New York City to Boston: Wednesday morning into the afternoon (7 a.m. to 3 p.m.)

What about icing?

Icing is only expected to be an issue Tuesday morning, mainly in Washington D.C.’s western and northern suburbs (see this post for more info: Complex storm to smack D.C. area in three acts Tuesday and Wednesday), and along I-81 in Virginia. It may also briefly extend into south central Pennsylvania midday Tuesday into Tuesday afternoon.

Where and when is the snow threat greatest?

The most likely areas to get substantial snow include the mountains of West Virginia, western Maryland, western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio and western New York State.  This includes Pittsburgh and Buffalo – which both may receive upwards of 6 inches of snow.

Here are two snowfall simulations – the top from the NAM model, the bottom from the European model – to give you a sense of the forecasts:


Total snowfall forecast from NAM model (

Total snowfall forecast from European model (

The heaviest snow is likely to fall throughout this region from Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, when I-68 in western Maryland and the Pennsylvania turnpike (the western side) may well be slow and snowy.

Highs winds

As the storm winds up late Tuesday night into Wednesday, very strong winds may batter the Northeast coast, particularly around Long Island and New York City.  High wind watches have been posted for wind gusts to 50 to 60 mph in that area.  This could be a big issue for flights landing (or taking off) at JFK, Newark, and/or LaGuardia at this time.

NAM model simulation of winds at 4 a.m. Wednesday morning in knots (multiply by 1.15 to get mph) (

Back-end snow for the I-95 corridor?

As the storm pulls away, it may tap enough cold air for rain to end as snow from D.C. to New York City.

Any snow for I-95 corridor should be of the “conversational” nature (non-accumulating on roads) Wednesday afternoon and evening, and not disruptive for travel.

Closing thoughts

This is a big storm that will impact many major cities, highways, and major hubs on some of the busiest travel days of the year.  In most places, you should be able to get where you need to go with patience, but considerable delays are likely.  Conditions gradually improve up and down the East Coast Wednesday night, with dry weather expected Thanksgiving Day.

Jason is the Washington Post’s weather editor and Capital Weather Gang's chief meteorologist. He earned a master's degree in atmospheric science, and spent 10 years as a climate change science analyst for the U.S. government. He holds the Digital Seal of Approval from the National Weather Association.
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Jason Samenow · November 25, 2013

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