Traveling for the holiday? Here’s what to expect if heading out onto the roads or into the skies to your vacation destination.

Central New York

For those whose journeys are limited to Rochester or Syracuse, the big travel hazard is going to be Wednesday, with the risk of snow squalls behind the Arctic front that will be passing through the region during the day. With the heavy traffic, these will have the capacity to make the roads slick and travel difficult, so be wary if out on the roads during the evening. Other than that, those heading along I-81 towards Watertown will need to pay special caution to the formation of lake effect snow bands, which could bring low visibility conditions in a narrow band of snow between Syracuse and Watertown, and veer closer to Fulton and Syracuse Wednesday night before the very cold high pressure coming in dries out the atmosphere and shuts down the lake effect machine by sunrise Thanksgiving.

For those traveling today, with temperatures  in the mid 30s and only light snow and rain showers, the roads should be in okay shape. Those driving on Thanksgiving Day will have the intense cold (with highs near 20 and lows 5-10 °F above zero, you’ll want to let the car heat up before getting on the road), but also dry, partly cloudy conditions.

Apart from some risk of a wintry mix late Friday night into Saturday morning, travel conditions back to Ithaca should be acceptable. It will be cold but dry during the day Friday, and some scattered rain showers but in the 40s late Saturday and on Sunday.

Western New York

For those heading out to Buffalo and towns nearby, today will be a bit dicey as a Lake Erie lake effect band develops near Dunkirk and swings northeastward into Buffalo tonight, creating moderate accumulations (3-6″) and some slippery roads. The lake effect band that develops post-frontal passage Wednesday will be short-lived, with cold, dry air rapidly flowing into the region. As elsewhere in the Northeast, Thanksgiving will be very cold (low 20s for a high, 10-15 °F for a low) but dry, with warm air and moisture flowing into region for the weekend. Some wintry mix will be possible Friday night into Saturday, but otherwise expect mostly cloudy skies, some rain showers, and highs in the mid 40s for Saturday and Sunday.

Eastern New York

For those hopping onto I-88 to the Capital Region, Tuesday will be unsettled, with persistent light rain and snow showers. No mixed precipitation is expected given the atmospheric profile, but there will be a few inches of fresh snow in the I-88 corridor and another coating likely during the day, so proceed with due caution. Albany, Schenectady and Troy will see more in the form of rain with highs in the upper 30s and lows in the upper 20s Tuesday night with scattered snow showers.

Wednesday will be changeable, with snow showers early, rain showers between 10 AM and about 4 PM, and snow showers after the front passes around 4 PM. Some gusty winds of up to 30-35 MPH will blow in behind the front, so watch for loose branches and adjust your driving a bit if traveling Wednesday evening.  Thursday and Friday will be sunny with highs around 20 °F and in the upper 20s respectively. The weekend will be mostly cloudy with scattered rain showers, and highs in the low 40s. The Hudson and Mohawk Valleys should stay all rain, but some part of I-88 may see some mixed precipitation Friday night into Saturday.

Lower Hudson Valley/New York City/Long Island

Apart from the hellish traffic, rain early Tuesday will give way to partly sunny skies and highs in the upper 40s. Wednesday will be fairly dry, with little precipitation expected by the time the cold front pushes through in the evening. Winds will be gusty behind the front, but the snow squalls plaguing upstate should stay upstate. Thanksgiving will be sunny but cold, with highs in the upper 20s. Friday will be sunny with highs in the mid 30s, and Saturday and Sunday will be mostly cloudy with rain showers and highs in the lower 50s. All in all, travel in and out of New York should be in decent shape.

New England

Tuesday should have much steadier if light precipitation for New England, with mostly rain in Hartford and Boston, and light snow to the north in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, and to the west between the Berkshires and Worcester. Concord and Portland could see a few inches early Tuesday, with Bangor picking up a few inches later in the day Tuesday.

Wednesday will be dry, partly cloudy and highs near 40 in Southern New England and low to mid 30s further north. Not much moisture will remain for the arctic front to tap into Wednesday night, so little new precipitation is expected with its passage. Thanksgiving will be cold but sunny, with highs near 20°F along the coast and interior Southern New England, and teens further north and inland. Friday will be a little warmer and still dry, while the weekend will be cloudy and unsettled, scattered rain showers with highs in the mid to upper 40s to the south, and upper 30s to the north.

Image courtesy of the National Weather Service

Elsewhere in the U.S.

Significant weather for Tuesday will be limited to the upper Midwest (the front we’ll get Wednesday), Northeast and Pacific coast, where an atmospheric river of moisture will create significant rainfall from Washington down through the California coast. While this will help address the tragic wildfires and clear the smoke-laden air, it also poses a risk of mudslides in burned areas.

Apart from the front Wednesday and continued rain on the Pacific coast, most other parts of the country will be in good shape for travel, with mostly dry conditions except for light rain from disturbances passing through Texas and Florida.

Thanksgiving will be bitterly cold and dry in the Northeast, cold or seasonably cool with sunny skies in the Midwest, sunny and mild for most of the south except for the Texas/Louisiana coast, and the coastal and interior Western U.S. should be getting thoroughly drenched, with heavy snow possible in the Rocky Mountains.

Rain is likely from Chicago south through the Mississippi River Valley Friday, with steady rains in the Pacific Northwest, and as rain and clouds take over the Eastern U.S. this weekend, a deep trough will push Arctic air into Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and Utah with widespread light to moderate snowfalls.

The summary of this is that unless you’re going to the West Coast or parts of the interior West, you’ll be in generally good shape for flights Wednesday and Friday.

Brian Crandall

Brian Crandall reports on housing and development for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached at