Chance of snow on busiest travel day

A 60 percent chance of snow or rain Wednesday could make the busiest travel day of the year a bit messy for the 484,000 area travelers hitting the highway for Thanksgiving destinations.

“It all depends on how it’s tracking. The heavier snow is going to be north of here in Pennsylvania,” said John Newkirk, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service’s Sterling center. “The colder air may not quite make it here … the way it looks now — wait and see.”

If the low pressure system stays north of the area, that usually means it is too warm for snow, he said. The National Weather Service forecast for Tuesday night calls for a 60 percent chance of snow or rain with little or no accumulation, with lows in the lower 30s. Highs Wednesday should be near 40.

“If the snow and ice comes, the traffic will be bad earlier,” said AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman Justin McNaull. “If you have some flexibility, it’s worth getting out before the weather comes. You’ll have less traffic on the highways, the weather will be drier and the drive should be easy.”

Travel for this holiday has recovered from the Sept. 11 slowdown last year, with 6.5 percent more Washington, D.C., area residents expected to fly — 80,000 of them, AAA said. By car, about 1 percent more from last’s years 481,000 is expected.

For airline passengers, this Thanksgiving marks the first time the federal government is in charge of passenger screening. The latest information on prohibited items can be viewed at Checked baggage screen equipment will damage some undeveloped film. Carry-on luggage is limited to one bag plus one personal item, which could be a laptop, purse, small backpack, briefcase or camera case.

Nationwide, 35.9 million Americans will travel for Thanksgiving, up from 35.3 million last year, AAA said. The peak time for driving is Wednesday afternoon to evening.

Higher gas prices are out there this time. A year ago, regular unleaded gas could be bought in Woodbridge for under 90 cents a gallon, McNaull said. Now the state average is $1.35, compared to the state average a year ago of $1.06.

The outlook for the gas prices through the holidays is unclear, AAA said, because the crude oil market is speculative and there could be a war premium already in the price.

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