April 24, 2014 11:31AM
By Mary Ellen Godin
A gulf storm expected to deliver driving rains and fierce winds on Wednesday might force Thanksgiving travelers to consider changing their driving schedules.
“It’s going to be very difficult traveling on Wednesday with poor visibility and bumper-to-bumper traffic,” said Gary Lessor, meteorologist at the Weather Center at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury.
“It’s advisable to find an alternative like Tuesday afternoon or later Wednesday evening.”
The storm, which began in the Gulf coast of Texas, is expected to travel up the East Coast and dump several inches of snow and freezing rain in the Appalachians and Shenandoah Valley.
Central Connecticut will start seeing rain Tuesday afternoon with wind speeds increasing up to 45 miles per hour after midnight and continuing through much of Wednesday. The area is expected to see 2-5 inches of rain, and the possibility of flash flooding, according to Lessor.
About 1.9 million New Englanders are expected to travel 50 miles from home to celebrate Thanksgiving, with 12 percent flying to holiday destinations and 87 percent driving, most on Wednesday, said Aaron Kupac, spokesman of AAA of Connecticut.
“We are certainly looking at the forecast,” Kupac said.
Kupac recommends that travelers adjust their driving times to non-peak hours and give themselves added time.
Sunday is the heaviest day for returning, he said.
Kevin Nursick, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, said the department doesn’t issue advisories but is watching the forecast carefully.
“It remains to be seen what this weather system is going to bring,” Nursick said. “When you have inclement weather, you need to drive appropriately.”
First snowfalls typically bring the highest number of accidents because motorists haven’t adjusted their driving to the season.
The same holds for freezing rain and sleet.
“During the Thanksgiving travel timeframe, I always tell folks to give themselves plenty of time to travel, have patience and courtesy, and particularly when there’s a potential of poor driving conditions, please slow it down,” Nursick said.
Despite gas prices creeping up four cents in the past week, prices have dropped 19 cents since Thanksgiving of last year. But the state’s prices remain higher than the national average of $3.28, Kupac said, and are the highest in the continental U.S.