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Weather Watch: Stormy Outlook for Holiday Travel?

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Posted on November 21, 2011 | Blog Category:
By Charlie Hohn



IMG_0911.JPG

Above:  a cold December morning in Middlebury.  Are we in for a similar scene this Thanksgiving weekend? 

Weather is on the minds of many Vermont residents this week. Thanksgiving weekend involves travel for many people, and is also around the time that more wintry weather starts building into the region. This year will be no exception – a storm is forecast to move into the area on Wednesday, and it's hard to say if the storm will bring a drenching, frigid rain or the year's first significant snowfall.

Like many early-season winter storms, this storm will bring with it air in the low to mid 30s, with colder air on the northern and eastern sides of the storm. Between the difficulty of forecasting temperatures within a few degrees, and the difficulty of forecasting an exact storm track, there is quite a bit of uncertainty about what the storm will do.

At first it seemed that the storm would primarily produce rain for Vermont, but the forecast may be changing. The National Weather Service just issued a winter storm warning for much of Vermont, but not including the southern Champlain Valley. My guess is that the lowlands of Addison County will experience some wet snow late Tuesday night, quite a bit of cold rain on Wednesday, and then a quick dusting of snow Wednesday night. The mountains will, of course, see much colder weather. High elevation areas such as Middlebury Gap are more likely to experience significant snowfall during most of the storm, with a period of rain or slush during the middle of the day on Wednesday. I wouldn't be surprised if some of the higher peaks got up to a foot of snow. Areas to the north and east of Addison County will also likely pick up significant snowfall. Areas to the south, including southern New England, will experience mostly cold rain.

If you aren't ready for possibly treacherous winter driving conditions, I strongly suggest you avoid Bethel Mountain Road, which is still in very bad shape due to damage from Tropical Storm Irene. Middlebury Gap will also probably be quite slick on Wednesday night. Route 4 east of Rutland will probably be a bit less snowy, due to its more southern location and somewhat lower elevation. Better yet, if your schedule is flexible, travel during the middle of the day on Wednesday or wait until Thursday morning. It's also a good idea to check the forecasts before you go. Storms like this can occasionally throw a curve ball and end up as a heavy blizzard.

Those of you who aren't ready for winter weather may enjoy the Thanksgiving weekend. Temperatures will warm to above average over the long weekend, and the weather will be mainly dry. Not surprisingly, the long-term outlook seems to call for a more serious change to wintry weather after the start of December.

If the forecast changes significantly, I'll post an update in the comments below.

Charlie Hohn is a recent graduate of the UVM Field Naturalist graduate program. He has been closely watching the weather ever since he was a child in southern California. Charlie will be posting occasional blog posts here about Addison County weather. He also maintains a blog about water at slowwatermovement.blogspot.com.

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