A freeze for Thanksgiving? See the weather, travel forecast for central Pennsylvania

More than 55 million Americans are expected to travel more than 50 miles this week as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, according to the American Automobile Association. If you’re hitting the road, you’d be wise to plan ahead by looking at the upcoming forecast.

Central Pennsylvania residents should see rain early this week before clearer skies arrive closer to Thanksgiving. Be sure to bring a coat, too, as temperatures are expected to drop near freezing by Thursday.

Here’s what kind of weather you can expect near State College this Thanksgiving week.

Centre County’s Thanksgiving weather forecast

The National Weather Service’s State College office expects steady rain and wind Tuesday afternoon heading into Wednesday with a high temperature of about 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The State College area could receive new precipitation amounts topping out near 1 inch through Tuesday night, according to forecasts as of 2 p.m. Tuesday.

Wind is expected to sit between 12 and 17 mph with gusts reaching up to 28 mph Tuesday and early Wednesday, the NWS reports.

Rain should continue before about 8 a.m. Wednesday, possibly resulting in an additional tenth of an inch, State College’s forecast reads. The afternoon will give way to mostly cloudy skies and a 49-degree high with winds sitting between 10 and 14 mph and gusts up to 22 mph.

Fortunately, the NWS expects mostly sunny skies for State College Thursday for Thanksgiving. The agency expects a relatively comfortable high of 48 degrees and a near-freezing low of 32 degrees overnight.

The rest of the week is expected to be cold and generally dry in State College, the NWS predicts. Current forecasts call for a high of 43 degrees Friday and 42 Saturday with lows of 23 and 24 degrees, respectively. Sunday evening into Monday is expected to bring about a 40% chance of showers.

No snow is anticipated for Centre County for the week of Thanksgiving, but we’re already past the date of State College’s average first measurable snowfall (Nov. 17). Though 2022’s snow accumulation fell well below historical averages, AccuWeather experts predict a near-normal 2023-24 winter season that could produce between 34 and 42 inches of snow in State College. El Niño, a notable climate pattern, could influence the winter season in Pennsylvania.

Travel tips for Thanksgiving

If you’re hitting the road this Thanksgiving week, you can take several steps to travel efficiently, AAA says.

Wednesday is expected to be the busiest day of travel on the road, according to transportation data firm INRIX. Average travel times in some metro areas could increase by as much as 80%, with the busiest travel expected between 2 and 6 p.m. Consider starting your drive before 11 a.m. or later Wednesday evening, AAA says.

“The day before Thanksgiving is notoriously one of the most congested days on our roadways. Travelers should be prepared for long delays, especially in and around major metros,” Bob Pishue, a transportation analyst at INRIX, wrote in a media release. “Knowing when and where congestion will build can help minimize holiday traffic frustrations. We advise drivers to use traffic apps, local [department of transportation] notifications, and 511 services for real-time updates.”

The worst time to drive on Thanksgiving is between roughly 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., AAA estimates. Hit the roads before 10 a.m. or after 5 p.m. for an optimal drive if you need to drive on the holiday.

If you’re heading home Friday, try to avoid traveling between noon and 4 p.m. Optimal travel times include before 11 a.m. and after 7 p.m., according to AAA.

With roughly 55.4 million travelers expected to travel more than 50 miles from home this Thanksgiving, AAA projects 2023 to mark the third busiest Thanksgiving for travel since the agency began tracking holiday travel in 2000. Only 2005 and 2019 saw more travel, according to the forecast.

Roughly 4.7 million Americans will travel via the air, AAA estimates. That figure is up about 6.6% from 2022, resulting in the highest number of expected Thanksgiving air travelers since 2005.