Treacherous Travel Friday Ahead
Late this Thursday evening the arctic cold front has passed and now the temperature plunge has begun with snow a few hours away. Winds have reached their strongest values of the day and will remain strong to locally severe overnight and Friday.
Gusts to 40 even briefly 50 mph can play havoc with unsecured Christmas decorations. Folks driving on elevated roads like an Interstate will get a real jolt as these gusts shove your car. Local power flickers/outs are likely before dawn.
Since most folks are at home now, let’s scroll ahead to Friday’s travelogue as we attempt to help you get from point A to B.
Hopefully your travels do not take you too far away since I expect much of Friday to feature a wind driven snowfall. Ground temperatures are warm after this week’s 60 degree highs, so the first few hours of snow will be wet and melting. The irony of melting is that it keeps the ground wet and can promote the formation of ice underneath freshly falling snow.
Rule of thumb number one, traveling north will be worse than south on Friday. So those heading to Columbus or the Jefferson outlets in Ohio will find the snow peppering down faster than say those traveling I-75 south from Lexington.
Here in the immediate Tri-State region, those fierce winds will whip snow squalls through our area most of Friday and Friday night. Points east toward I-77 including Charleston, Ripley, Parkersburg are in for a very snowy time as is the I-79 zone toward Sutton, Jane Lew, Clarksburg and Morgantown.
Naturally, the mountains are a sort of no-fly or should I say no drive zone in that blowing snow will make for poor visibility and near blizzard conditions at times. Unlike the 2009 storm, which coincidentally occurred on the Friday before Christmas, this storm will not produce a heavy wet sopping snow. Instead a light powdery wind driven fall of snow will occur.
Travel on I-64 out of Virginia through the Greenbrier Valley and along the WV TURNPIKE, while not recommended, will be passable this go round. Again visibilities will be poor so even though roads are plowed/salted, travel speeds will be much reduced.
If your travel plans take you to Cleveland on I-77 through Eastern Ohio or along I-68 from Morgantown to Frostburg Md. conditions will be the most severe. Whiteout and near Blizzard conditions make this route undesirable to navigate until Saturday.
There is a sign east of Morgantown on I-68 that reads, “ADVERSE WEATEHR CONDITIONS NEXT 36 MILES”. It is for cases like this that that sign exists. My suggestion is to not attempt to cross I-68 on Friday.
The I-64 trip to Lexington will feature snow showers through the Bluegrass with reduced vision and stretches of slickness. Once west of Lexington, speed reductions will be minor as most of the snow will be over.
Oddly, due to drying winds east of the mountian chain, I-81, the Skyline Drive and I-95 will stay snow free but still be buffetted by winds!
Airport-wise, fully a 20 state area from Illinois to New England and from Kentucky to North Carolina will feel the bag of wind this storm is unleashing. That means plenty of cross winds for pilots and likely airport delays galore for Friday before Christmas travelers.
Here’s a link to the FFA’s web sight so you can track flight delays. Thursday saw O’Hare airport have the most delays as sure enough the Windy City of Chicago lived up to it’s gusty reputation.
I will add to the travel forecast as new destinations come to my attention.