Though some Charleston officials say it’s tepid, brewing storm threatens Thanksgiving travel plans
Working for a software company, Charleston resident Jonathan Cornett spends most of his weeks jetting around the country. So with a big, sloppy storm barreling toward the East Coast, he knew he’d better change his travel plans if he wanted to make it to Massachusetts to see his family for Thanksgiving.
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Cornett, 28, knew he stood a good chance of getting stranded in an airport somewhere if he stuck with his plans to fly out Wednesday, when some of the worst weather is expected to hit on the busiest travel day of the year. So he switched gears and flew out Sunday to ensure that he would be eating turkey when the skies opened up.
100 percent chance of rain after 10 a.m. Rainfall of half to three-quarters of an inch. High of 65.
Thunderstorms possible. Southerly wind up to 23 mph with gusts of 33 mph. Additional rainfall of half to three-quarters of an inch. Low of 64.
50 percent chance of rain; thunderstorms possible. Wind starts blowing out of northwest at 20 mph. Another tenth to a quarter inch of rain. High of 64.
Mostly clear and low of 32.
Sunny and high of 51.
National Weather Service
“I changed my plans out of sheer concern,” he said Monday from the Boston area. “It doesn’t look like it’s going to be pleasant for the whole East Coast.”
The travel anxiety this week has been fueled by an area of low pressure, or disturbed weather, from the Gulf of Mexico that is sweeping across the Southeast and pushing into the Northeast closer to Thanksgiving.
While widespread and heavy rainfall is forecast in South Carolina, the Appalachian Mountains might get pelted by snow and freezing rain. Frozen precipitation also could fall on the eastern Great Lakes.
Anyone traveling Tuesday and Wednesday should be aware of the potential for delays, said Steve Rowley, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in North Charleston.
Between 1 and 2 inches of rain could fall near Charleston.
“It’s going to be a pretty expansive system,” Rowley said. “It’s probably going to have a lot of impact on travel.”
Lowcountry resident Angie Holmes got a taste of what’s to come for some holiday travelers while driving over the weekend from Charleston to Arizona. She wrote on The Post and Courier’s Facebook page that she sat on a highway for three hours Sunday because of road closures due to ice.
“Drove thru sleet, snow, and rain at 35 mph in a 75 mph limit for half of Texas!” she wrote.
An estimated 567,000 South Carolinians are expected to take to the roads between Wednesday and Sunday to get to and from their destinations for the Thanksgiving holiday, according to AAA Carolinas. That’s nearly 12,000 more people on the road than last year, with motorists accounting for 90 percent of holiday travelers.
AAA is recommending that folks consider adjusting their travel plans in response to the wintry storm and the threat it poses to drivers, said Angel Vogel Daley, a spokeswoman for the organization. They should keep a close eye on weather forecasts and stay off the roads, if possible, when the brunt of the weather system descends on the area, she said.
“You’re dealing with congested roads and travel on the busiest travel holiday of the year,” she said. “When you add in bad weather, that can be a recipe for disaster.”
Some area residents seemed to be heeding her advice, with a few choosing to abandon their plans altogether. Tonya Ritchey Eads of Summerville wrote on the newspaper’s Facebook page that the weather forecasts caused her to cancel plans to leave Monday with her children to drive to her parents’ home in Oil City, Pa., for the holiday.
“Hopefully the weather will cooperate a bit better for Christmas,” she stated.
Colleen Cooney, a media relations manager with Roper St. Francis hospital, is hoping for the best as she prepares to fly out Wednesday to Chicago for her first Thanksgiving away from Charleston in ages. Normally, she hosts in town, but decided to venture out this year for a family get-together in the Windy City.
“I know Dallas had several hundred flights canceled and that weather is heading our way,” she wrote in an email. “I’m flying “up north” and really hope that the weather won’t hinder my first-time-in-a-long-time holiday plans.”
The brewing storm, however, isn’t causing much alarm for officials at Charleston International Airport, which sees more travelers during the days before and after Thanksgiving than any other time of the year.
Becky Beaman, spokeswoman for the Charleston County Aviation Authority, said she expects this holiday to go well. Airport officials will be watching for delays of inbound flights from places like New York and Chicago, she said, but departing flights shouldn’t have problems.
Fliers should call their airlines before leaving for the airport. But Beaman said the airlines are good about sending information about significant delays or cancellations through cellphones and email.
“We’re not expecting the bad weather here,” Beaman said. “We haven’t had any issues so far. It’s running very smoothly.”
Greyhound also doesn’t expect any problems with its bus service out of Charleston, spokeswoman Lanesha Gipson said.
Tuesday through Sunday make up Greyhound’s busiest Thanksgiving travel period, when about half a million people are expected to hop on buses nationwide.
The company boasts a 90 percent on-time departure rate, but Gipson said anyone with Greyhound tickets should keep an eye on the company’s website. If any problems pop up, the site’s homepage will feature a “service alerts” section, she said.
People can call Greyhound’s toll-free number for more specific information. They should arrive about an hour before their buses are scheduled to leave the station.
“We don’t really anticipate any problems,” she said. “But we’re monitoring the weather to see if anything does occur.”
A wide swath of the Southeast from the mouth of the Mississippi River to the Chesapeake Bay should anticipate some rumbles of thunder Tuesday and early Wednesday. But parts of the Lowcountry need to be aware of an added threat: tornadoes.
A slight chance of twisters will develop Tuesday afternoon in mainly coastal areas from Charleston northward to the Outer Banks. The storm also will prompt the threat in the Florida panhandle and southern Georgia.
Warmer and more humid air associated with the storm are the cause of that tornado threat. Any sunshine that pokes through the clouds Tuesday would boost it.
But once the storm moves through, the mercury will fall again in the Lowcountry, which has experienced more cold snaps already this fall than it typically does.
On Thanksgiving, it’ll be sunny, but people should bundle up if they’re planning to participate in a traditional game of flag football.
Highs on Thanksgiving will barely reach the low 50s, Rowley said. The upper 60s are more typical for this time of year.
“It’s a little early for this sort of thing,” the forecaster said. “It certainly will be jacket and coat weather on this holiday.”
Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556 or twitter.com/glennsmith5. Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.