Thanksgiving Storm Boreas: Wind, Freezing Rain, and Snow Blow Across the East

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A view of North America shows clouds over the eastern United States. Image courtesy of NASA Goddard Photo and Video.

Will winter storm Boreas stand between you and your turkey dinner?

For 100 million people in the US, an unwanted Thanksgiving guest is coming to dinner and snarling up travel plans as it comes. Winter storm Boreas is named for the Greek god of the wind, and it’s blowing across the country, bringing freezing rain, snow, and sleet: the entire menu of November weather.

Thanksgiving Weekend Storms Could Challenge Driving Conditions

On Monday, the storm visited Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, and it’s expected to head east over Tuesday and Wednesday, just as cross-country drivers begin their quest to visit relatives for Thanksgiving weekend. The American Automobile Association estimates that up to 43 million people will commute for the holidays this year, many of them by car, which spells trouble for travelers during Boreas’ icy weather. The storm has already caused at least 10 car-related deaths so far, most of them in rollover accidents.

Thanksgiving Storm? What to Expect This Week

Late Tuesday and into Wednesday, the Carolinas, Washington, DC, Philadelphia, Boston and New York City will likely see heavy rain. Those traveling on the I-95 will likely avoid the snow, but they could experience challenging visibility and the potential for flooding and hydroplaning due to the rain. The wind will combine with the rain, making it even more challenging to navigate on the roads. As for the snow, it’s expected to visit western New York and northwestern Pennsylvania, dropping up to 12 inches of snow in those areas. Motorists on the I-81 will need to be wary of blowing snow and slippery conditions.

Boreas’ Stormy Weather: Are Freezing Thanksgivings Common?

This weekend is no anomaly. Poised at the brink of December, the Thanksgiving weekend has seen other stormy days as well over the years. As travelers make their way to visit family and friends, they’ve often been beset by tough travel conditions.

  • In 1950, the Great Appalachian Storm blew down trees across New York State, featuring a record-setting wind gust of 83 mph in Albany, New York. Winds of up to 60 mph roared across the state, causing extensive damage.
  • In 1971, it was a white Thanksgiving in New York, with 20 to 30 inches of snow reported in areas across the state.
  • In 1987 a Thanksgiving Day storm brought snow and heavy winds to New England and upstate New York.

While winter storms may not grab the headlines as much as a hurricane, they can be very disruptive and damaging. During a severe storm, highways, airports, businesses, and schools may need to close due to large amounts of snow or roads made impassable by freezing rain.

Not only that, when hurricane season and storm season collide, the results can be particularly devastating. 2012’s Hurricane Sandy was made much more intense because it was a hurricane that combined with a winter storm and high tides to slam the East Coast.

Thanksgiving Weekend Road Safety

A storm that occurs on a holiday weekend is particularly challenging, since motivated travelers may choose to take to the roads instead of staying home as they would on other days. During this time, it’s particularly important that motorists heed road advisories and closures to avoid accidents. Check the National Traffic and Road Closure Information before you leave to ensure that roads aren’t flooded, frozen, or overly snowy, and help your family stay safe this holiday season.

Resources

Accuweather. East Coast Winter Storm to Snarl Thanksgiving Travel. (2013). Accessed November 26, 2013.

The Farmers’ Almanac. Historic Thanksgiving Storms. Accessed November 26, 2013.

The Guardian. Icy US Storm Blamed for 10 Deaths as it Heads East for Thanksgiving. Accessed November 26, 2013.

USDT FHA. National Traffic and Road Closure Information. (2013). Accessed November 26, 2013.

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