Snow squalls to threaten dangerous travel in Northeast on busiest driving day of the year

By Courtney Spamer, AccuWeather meteorologist
November 21, 2018, 8:27:42 PM EST


Some travelers going to and from the Northeast into Wednesday evening will be battling wintry weather.

The day before Thanksgiving has long been denoted as one of the busiest travel days of the year, with people going near and far to reach loved ones for the holiday.

While much of the country will experience dry or quiet travel conditions, the Northeast will be an exception.

The swath of snow will extend from the Great Lakes through much of the Northeast into Wednesday evening.

"We have a concern that one snow squall associated with the leading edge of Arctic air may reach the northern and western suburbs of New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. and Baltimore during Wednesday evening," according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.

Static Squalls 3 pm


"Sometimes the worst place to be at the onset of snow or during a squall is on the major interstate highways," Sosnowski said.

"One 10-minute snow squall can put thousands of people at risk for getting into an accident, given the bumper-to-bumper conditions and people traveling at high speed."

Static Front Timing 2 pm


"The biggest concern for snow squalls will be from southeastern Ontario in Canada to central and western New York and northern and western Pennsylvania," said AccuWeather Meteorologist Brian Thompson.

Communities such as Erie and State College, Pennsylvania, as well as Buffalo, Syracuse and Binghamton, New York, are among the most likely to see squalls of snow. Snow squalls can be explained as the wintertime equivalent of summertime thunderstorms, bringing intense bursts of snowfall to a small area.

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Because of this, both road conditions and visibility can change rapidly, impacting drivers on the roads for Wednesday.

"Given that Wednesday is a busy travel day, motorists traveling along I-80, I-90, I-79 and I-86 will want to stay alert for rapidly deteriorating conditions," added Thompson.

In addition to secondary roadways, parts of I-81 and I-87 could all experience a heavier burst of snow.

Static I-80 AP Snow Squall

Water and foam are frozen to the trees in the median as westbound traffic resumed on Thursday, Jan. 8, 2004, at the site of a crash on Interstate 80 that killed six people near Bellefonte, Pa. The crash began when a snow squall passed through and involved 27 trucks and 17 passenger vehicles. (AP Photo/Pat Little)


Normal visibility can suddenly be replaced by wind-whipped snow and white-out conditions as a heavy burst of snow moves in, making it hard to see even a few feet in front of your vehicle.

Additionally, a quick covering of snow can abruptly lead to slippery road conditions.

Sudden braking can cause vehicles to slide, inadvertently creating accidents on the roads. These conditions are often the perfect recipe for multi-vehicle pileups.

Drivers should remain alert in areas where snow squalls are likely. Safe driving practices include reducing speed ahead of a heavier squall and leaving plenty of space between your car and the vehicle in front of you.

At the same time, periods of snow will occur across northern New England, creating difficult travel conditions across northern New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, western Massachusetts and Maine.

Conditions in these areas are less likely to change abruptly. However, wintry weather can still create difficult travel.

Those traveling to or from airports across the Northeast could also experience delays due to reduced visibility. Any long-duration delays could create cascading delays at other major hubs across the country, even those areas that are not anticipating adverse weather into Wednesday night.

Static US Travel Wednesday


To stay up to date on when snow will be arriving in your area, be sure to check AccuWeather MinuteCast® for your exact location. Downloading the free AccuWeather app will allow you to check MinuteCast® on the go.

This wave of snow will not only bring tricky travel conditions, but it will also open up the door for arctic air to enter the Northeast just in time for Thanksgiving.

Temperatures will plummet Wednesday night across the Northeast, setting up the coldest Thanksgiving in years for many in the Northeast.

The sudden drop in temperature will cause any melted snow or wet areas to refreeze, creating slick conditions on untreated surfaces.

The deep freeze will be noticeable even in places where less snow is expected. This includes New York City, where the biting wind and cold air could make for frigid conditions at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

The cold air will linger into Thursday night and early Friday, bringing dangerously cold conditions for those out shopping for Black Friday.

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