PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) — A nor’easter is heading up the coast just in time to throw a wrench into Thanksgiving travel plans for Pittsburghers heading east for the holiday.
A Winter Storm Watch has already been issued for Cambria and Somerset counties, as well as Garrett County, Maryland. It goes into effect at 4 a.m. Wednesday.
KDKA Meteorologist Dennis Bowman says in the Pittsburgh area and points nearby, we can expect a coating to an inch. But the Laurel Highlands will see more – between two to four.
“A snowy Thanksgiving Eve ahead,” said Bowman. “We’ll have light snow arriving towards morning here in Pittsburgh. That could give us a coating to an inch during the morning rush or during the morning all together and make for slick travel.”
If you’re heading more towards the central or eastern part of the state, expect heavier snow and hazardous travel conditions.
“More snow farther to the east,” Bowman said. “You get into central and eastern Pennsylvania, north of Philadelphia, anywhere from six to 12 inches of snow can fall tomorrow on into Thanksgiving morning.”
Officials with Pennsylvania Turnpike say they are expecting more than 2.7 million vehicles over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
The turnpike has activated round-the-clock shifts and will roll with the first flakes pledging to keep the road just wet.
“Over the years, we’ve had much worse and dire forecast than we have now and we’re prepared to deal with whatever mother nature deals,” said Tom Fox, turnpike spokesman.
With snow expected, they are urging drivers to be patient and be extra cautious.
“We strongly advise motorists to never pass or tailgate a snowplow or plow train,” said Turnpike CEO Mark Compton in a press release. “Not only is it extremely dangerous because of operator visibility restrictions, it makes no sense because the pavement in front of our trucks is likely covered in snow or ice.”
According to officials, Thanksgiving Eve is usually the single busiest day of the year on the Turnpike. They are expecting the heaviest traffic from 3p.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesday and 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday.
Meanwhile, some Thanksgiving travelers along the East Coast were heading out early because of the forecast.
“We were planning to probably stop in Somerset, but when we heard about winterstorm Kito, we are now going to push east and get as close to Philadelphia as we can,” said Mike Palchesko of Troy, Michigan.
“I don’t want to risk it,” she said. “I’d rather be safe than sorry and if it doesn’t snow then I just have an extra day at home with my family” in Uxbridge, Massachusetts.
The National Weather Service’s lead forecaster said major Northeast cities will likely see moderate to heavy rain most of Wednesday. Meteorologist Andrew Orrison says higher elevation areas west of the Interstate 95 corridor could see as much as 6 to 12 inches of snow.
“Precipitation, all in the form of rain right now, coming up the coast. A low pressure center will be dragging that up,” said Bowman. “It’ll become a good old-fashioned nor’easter dumping heavy snow near the middle Atlantic seaboard. And it looks like that will throw some of that over in our direction.”
Although the coast would see mostly rain, the Weather Service says the storm could leave a few inches of snow before exiting the region early Thursday.
“We’re not looking at major cities seeing significant snowfall,” Orrison said. “It will mostly be rain for big cities and then maybe a couple of slushy inches of accumulation in cities like Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and New York City.”
Although the storm will be a nor’easter, Orrison said heavy winds were not in the forecast. Conditions were expected to improve by Thursday morning.
All the major U.S. airlines were closely monitoring the situation but have not yet canceled flights. American Airlines was allowing passengers flying to some Northeast cities on Wednesday to move their flight, for free, to Tuesday or Thursday.
In Vermont, public safety officials warned the public that travel could be treacherous. Up to 16 inches of snow was forecast in some areas of the state.
Stay with KDKA for John Shumway’s full report on holiday travel.
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