Snow Expected To Slow Thanksgiving Travel

Nov 25, 2014

Top transportation and public safety officials in Massachusetts say the state is ready for the first big snow storm of the season, which is timed to hit on one of the busiest travel days of the year.

The Massachusetts Transportation Secretary Frank DePaola is urging people with travel plans for Thanksgiving to bring patience along. He advised people to leave for their holiday destinations early in the morning, or after 8 p.m. to avoid rush hour commuters.  He said highway crews are ready for the predicted Wednesday snowstorm.

" We  will pretreat the roads before the storm begins," said DePaola. " We will have our equipment stay with it until the storm abates. We will make sure the roads are passable and safe for people to use."

Snow is expected to begin falling across the region by noon Wednesday and end by Thursday morning. The Berkshires could see up to 12 inches, with six to 10 inches in the rest of western and central Massachusetts, and lesser amounts east of Worcester, according to forecasters.

DePaola said icing is not likely to be a problem because the pavement temperatures are still relatively warm.

MassDOT has suspended all road construction projects until Monday. Free coffee is available at highway rest areas through Friday morning and again Sunday.  

DePaola said electronic signs along the state’s major highways will display travel information. He said people can check on current conditions at the MassDOT website, with the RideWise smartphone app, and by calling 511.

" 511 is  a taped message of the current travel conditions on road segments. But it lags a little, so if there is incident near term it might not be on the message."

AAA estimates 1 million people in Massachusetts will travel at least 50 miles during the Thanksgiving holiday.

The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency put out a list of travel safety tips that urged motorists to slow down, allow extra travel time, yield to snowplows, and make sure vehicles are equipped with snow tires, ice scrapers and snow brushes. 

MEMA spokesman Peter Judge said the first significant snowstorm of the season always results in a rash of accidents.

" Every year with that first storm we see a lot of people with snow driving amnesia," said Judge. " They forget how to drive in the snow."

Judge said MEMA has held twice-daily conference calls in recent days with representatives from the National Weather Service, key transportation entities, state police,  and local officials to prepare for the storm, but he said no emergency declarations are anticipated.

" Its the timing. It is not going to be a blockbuster storm."

Because the storm will impact a large area of the East Coast, officials urged travelers to check ahead with airlines and Amtrak for potential delays or cancellations.

The Steamship Authority added extra service for Tuesday night to Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard because of the forecast for high winds Wednesday that could halt trips to the islands.