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Driving Conditions in January- New York to Nashville

Driving Conditions in January- New York to Nashville

Old Jul 10th, 2013, 12:37 AM
  #1  
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Driving Conditions in January- New York to Nashville

What sort of road/driving conditions could we (Aussies) expect driving from New York to Nashville in early January? We will be continuing on to Florida via New Orleans by car,had previously planned to fly to Nashville .
APG23 is offline  
Old Jul 10th, 2013, 03:29 AM
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Do you like driving in snow and ice? At that time of year high probability you will hit winter precipitation along the inland route you would take - and sometimes the ice and freezing rain is worse thru Virginia and snow in the hills along the way. Although they do a very good job with snow removal along the Interstate highways, depends on your timeline - could you tolerate being stuck someplace for an additional day or so while the storm ends, even if it is some town in the middle of nowhere in Pennsylvania? And your fear factor - in this part of the US we drive in almost anything and don't slow down to do so. Unless there is a massive winter-weather accident.

I would recommend flying into Nashville - or flying from NYC to Nashville.
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Old Jul 10th, 2013, 03:36 AM
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Completely depends on the weather! If it's not a massive snowstorm and you're sticking to highways, I think you'll be fine (speaking as a lifelong northeasterner.) If the weather is bad, you could always wait it out a night. If it's a REALLY bad storm - you're kinda in trouble whether you drive *or* fly. Good luck!
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Old Jul 10th, 2013, 04:50 AM
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Oh, c'mon. "high probability"? Possibility not probability would be the operative word, and there is no way to tell. It is approximately a one day drive, and you should be able to readily tell what might be happening several days in advance. It is true that the Atlantic coast states have had some pretty unusual snow storms the past couple of years, but when and where these hit just "happen". So if you want to drive, make the plans, I say.
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Old Jul 10th, 2013, 04:58 AM
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None of this is a warning, just issues you should consider. I have lived in Nashville for four winters and in the Northeast since 1979.

If NY is the beginning of your trip, you might consider taking the train or flying to Washington, DC, and renting the car there. I-95 from NY to Washington is never fun, though well maintained and likely to be salted and plowed.

The logical route is I-95 to I-85 to I-40 to Nashville. I-40 crosses the Smoky Mountains (2000+ meters, lower passes) so is subject to snow but well maintained. I-85 and I-40 west of Knoxville are more likely to have ice than snow. Other places that have had snow that melts in the day are subject to refreezing at night as "black ice", invisible and very dangerous. You should not plan on early starts or driving after dark if these conditions are predicted.

Blizzards are another matter. A blizzard is a storm with heavy snow, subfreezing temperatures, reduced visibility and gale-force winds. Highways are likely to be closed because even the largest 18 wheel trucks get stuck behind abandoned cars or slide off the road. The whole eastern region will get one or maybe two of these a year, usually in late January or February.

Blizzards will mean delayed and cancelled flights. Airlines are not responsible for putting you up in the case of weather delays, so if a bad storm is coming, you may want to try to reschedule your ticket in advance of the storm or make arrangements to stay in your hotel. I was able to get out of Boston after the February blizzard last year ONLY THREE DAYS LATE because I called the airline at 3 AM to reschedule as soon as the storm became as sure a thing as a storm ever becomes. The clerk told me that by 6 AM, I would not be able to reach them because of the volume of calls.


If you are driving toward a storm, you need to plan where you will meet it. If the storm will hit the Smokies on Monday, you should stop in someplace like Durham on Sunday night with a nice supply of goodies, some reading and some beer. By Tuesday midday, you should be able to continue your journey, but the closer you get to the storm, the less likely you are to be able to find accommodation and to have to spend the night in a truck stop or emergency center.

Nashville itself gets little snow and it melts pretty quickly. We did get ice from time to time, but unless it is enough to cut off electricity, it was only a morning inconvenience.

We had huge debates on this forum last spring about winter routes. I don't know how individual travel proposals and actual trips turned out but on the whole the alarmists were right about the possibilities of disrupted travel so it is worth being mentally prepared, both for road conditions and for being stuck somewhere that you had not planned on.
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Old Jul 10th, 2013, 05:03 AM
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You could get anything.

Might be 40s and clear.

Might be 20s and a blizzard and you will have to get off the road and hole up in a motel.

Might get sleet or light snow - and unless you are experienced driving in this weather it can be very difficult/dangerous. There is no way to tell until 2 or 3 days out. And you can hit this weather until into the Carolinas. If you do get bad weather you ca be down to 15 or 20 mph - if the roads stay open.

Chances of bad weather are probably about 15%/20% - but just won;t know until it happens.

At that time of year trains are most reliable and planes usually better than car (although they can be grounded for days at a time due to snow).
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Old Jul 10th, 2013, 05:04 AM
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Gretchen is right about everything except the length of the drive. One day will get you to somewhere between Greensboro and Asheville North Carolina. The next day will get you to Nashville.

It's 13 hours of actual on the road driving time (no meals, no toilets, no fuel) on I-81 which is in the mountains almost the entire way and thus subject to substantially worse weather. If the weather is fine, go for it. But 13 (practically 15-16) hours on the road is too much for safety given the heavy truck traffic on that route.
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Old Jul 10th, 2013, 05:39 AM
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Ack is correct about the drive. I'd guess closer to Asheville if you come down I81--it's an 11 hour drive to NYC which amazed me when we did it a couple of years ago. I8=95/85 has a lot more traffic around big cities.
But there is NO way to say what the weather might be "now". ;o)
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Old Jul 10th, 2013, 07:18 AM
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The only time when highway road conditions are a problem in the winter is during an actual winter storm, or shortly thereafter. Once the snow stops crews are generally good about getting roads back into clear conditions quickly - within hours usually. The exceptions are when there's a huge, HUGE storm, with 12" of snow.

Besides those times when it's actively snowing you'd never know that it was winter - roads will be dry and clear. Oh, it'll be cold, so I guess you will know it's winter, but your car wont.

In my opinion you should make your plans however you wish, and factor in an extra day of schedule slop in case you are faced with some delays.
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Old Jul 10th, 2013, 07:19 AM
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In early January, I would actually drive through Pittsburgh to avoid the worst of the mountains, where there is almost certainly going to be snow, especially if you aren't familiar with winter driving. I know this will make the trip longer, but I think it's a wiser choice for inexperienced winter drivers.

The good thing about sticking to major interstates is that within 48 hours of a snowstorm, the roads are usually almost completely clear unless it's a really major blizzard.

If I had a choice, I'd fly rather than drive.
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Old Jul 10th, 2013, 08:55 AM
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You could rearrange your trip slightly and take the Amtrak Crescent from New York through Washington and Atlanta to New Orleans. See NO and then rent a car there to see Nashville and or Florida.
The trains move during snowstorms that stop air travel.
Why the interest in Nashville in the winter?
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Old Jul 10th, 2013, 09:01 AM
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I do the Memphis > NYC drive 3-4 times a year, one of which is always in December. I just got back Monday from this drive. Use I78 out of NY to Harrisburg, PA. then I81 south thru Virginia and into Tennessee where you will pick up I40 to Nashville. It is 14 hours NYC to Nashville. From there to New Orleans it is I65 South to Birmingham and then I59 South to the Gulf Coast and New Orleans.
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Old Jul 10th, 2013, 09:43 AM
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NYg HAS it. I forgot that I81 splits off toward Tennessee to I40, well into Tennessee, and none of the Pigeon River winding road on the NC side of I40--and no need to hit I77.
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Old Jul 10th, 2013, 11:14 AM
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It may be pretty sketchy. Just give yourself some extra time for the drive.
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Old Jul 10th, 2013, 12:44 PM
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Something else to consider - number of hours of daylight at that time of year if you prefer to drive when light.

I did some research and picked Harrisburg, PA as a possible city along the route. In January, there is some form of precipitation on 48% of the days. Now that could just be some light snow or mist - but that might for a short time make the roads slippery until equipment and salt/sand is on the roads.

Sure, chances of big snowstorm delaying you more than a day or so is not great - so you will have to judge your level of comfort driving in uncertain conditions.
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Old Jul 10th, 2013, 01:03 PM
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you would think that we were talking about Montana!! The route nyg outlined is also pretty flat.
I HAVE driven the interstates (I77) in heavy snow, and while slower, it was amazingly not that much slower, mainly because traffic was much lighter!!
There is no real way to make a decision about this--for ANY of us!! But we can tell the OP, that the roads are well maintained, and it is interstate highways.
The route suggested also avoids the mountains pretty well. Fog can be more of a problem than snow sometimes at higher altitudes.
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Old Jul 10th, 2013, 01:26 PM
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Most likely you'll be fine. There's a chance you'll hit snow/ice. If that looks likely, avoid the mountains. Don't make any pressing plans for the day or two after you're scheduled to arrive in Nashville, just in case you have to stop.

I'd fly, but that's more because that's a long time to be in the car even if you don't hit snow. There are direct Nashville/NYC flights.

If you get to Nashville and it starts snowing, kick back and enjoy as everyone freaks out and buys all the bread, milk and beer in the stores.
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Old Jul 10th, 2013, 03:47 PM
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Actually I realize it is not Montana - my geography is fairly good. And as a home care RN with a territory that includes all of the eastern half of MA, I know all about driving in bad weather.

But the OP is from Australia, and original plans were to fly directly to Nashville and then drive south. That still seems like a better plan to me.
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Old Jul 10th, 2013, 06:14 PM
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jent103, you forgot tawlet paper.
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Old Jul 11th, 2013, 01:14 AM
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Thank you everyone for your thoughtful and restrained replies(I expected a SHARP rebuke for being foolhardy) Why Nashville?(tom fuller)..I know it is not the ideal time of year however,since we will have had a white christmas in Canada and new year in New York(which was our primary purpose for this trip) and will go to Florida to visit family, its good to make a road trip rather than flying everywhere. Whatever we decide to do I know we will have fun, so thanks again.
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