White Thanksgiving is not what we were dreaming of

Arriving just in time to spice up holiday travel plans, a “rather significant nor’easter” is expected to make its way across Connecticut today, said Western Connecticut State University Weather Center meteorologist Gary Lessor.

The Groton area can expect more rain than snow from the storm, which will start this morning and should finish by midnight, said Lessor. Up to 3 inches of snow might accumulate on grassy areas on the southeastern shoreline, but little is likely to stick on paved surfaces, he said.

But “as you work your way inland,” said the meteorologist, “that’s where everything kind of goes kaput.”

Total accumulation could reach as much as a foot in the Worcester region of Massachusetts and portions of southern New Hampshire, said Lessor, while the Connecticut River valley can expect 4 to 8 inches and the Willimantic area may see as much as 7 to 9 inches of snow.

Lessor said Groton-area snow may not start until after the peak drive time of 3 to 5 p.m. But interstate visibility could be less than a mile whenever the snow does start, said Lessor, because the afternoon is expected to be windy.

The storm coincides with what is predicted to be the highest New England Thanksgiving travel volume in seven years, according to AAA, with approximately 1.8 million people traveling by car.

“Lower gas prices are increasing disposable income and enabling families to carve out more money from household budgets for travel this Thanksgiving,” said AAA Public Affairs Manager Aaron Kupec in a statement. Thanksgiving prices are lower than they’ve been since 2009, according to the organization.

Given the region’s forecast for today, AAA advised travelers to reduce speed, budget extra time and ensure proper vehicle maintenance before departing. According to the statement, the organization responded to more than 4,100 calls for roadside service in the Hartford area during Thanksgiving weekend last year.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced Tuesday that the state has taken measures to prepare for the nor’easter’s impact on holiday travel. Road work was canceled, police presence on roads and highways will be increased, and a state agency will monitor weather conditions. Government buildings will also close at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday. Nonessential state employees will be dismissed at that time.

“The more we can get cars off the road before this storm’s real impact is felt, the better our chances are for dealing with whatever Mother Nature throws our way,” Malloy said of the decision to close state offices.

The Department of Transportation also canceled all road work beginning at 3 p.m. Tuesday. The cancellations were made to accommodate drivers heeding Malloy’s advice to travel on Tuesday rather than today to avoid the storm.

“Although this does not appear to be a major storm, it does have the potential to produce moderate snowfall and create hazardous driving conditions during the busiest travel day of the year,” said Malloy during a Tuesday morning press conference.

“I am asking everyone who must travel to use caution to ensure that you get to your destination safely. If it’s possible for you to leave on Tuesday instead of Wednesday, I would urge you to do so.”

Malloy said the state Emergency Operations Center will begin monitoring the weather this morning, allowing the state to “better coordinate a rapid response to any problems that may arise.”

The EOC will include representatives from the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, Department of Transportation, Department of Public Health and the Connecticut National Guard.

State police will participate in Operation C.A.R.E., or Combined Accident Reduction Effort, until Dec. 1, said Malloy, increasing their focus on stopping aggressive, unsafe and drunken drivers. They will also conduct sobriety checkpoints and DUI patrols.

The governor asked residents to use extra caution while driving this week by avoiding cell phone use, not following too closely and calling 911 to report any seemingly impaired drivers.

Connecticut Light & Power also issued a statement Tuesday, assuring residents that the company is prepared for the pre-Thanksgiving storm and citing “significant and ongoing infrastructure improvements.”

“We are fully prepared for this storm thanks to our ongoing system improvements,” said Peter Clarke, senior vice president of emergency preparedness for Northeast Utilities, parent company of CL&P, in the statement. “In 2013, we had our best reliability year in over a decade due to continued system upgrades, which are necessary to provide reliable service for our customers no matter what Mother Nature throws at us.”

CL&P encouraged people to prepared for the weather by making a “storm kit” and looking out for families, neighbors and friends. Residents should also stay 10 feet away from any downed power lines, according to the statement, and call 911 to report them.

Despite the wintery forecast for this afternoon, Lessor said things should warm up over the holiday weekend.

On Thanksgiving itself, southeastern Connecticut can expect a chance of snow showers or flurries and temperatures around 35 to 40 degrees.

k.catalfamo@theday.com

Twitter: @kccatalfamo

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