Ithaca, New York to Olympia, Washington

After a couple of short trips around the Great Lakes, we’re headed on a long trip through the northern US. It’s going to take us 5 days to cover 2,776 miles, which is a pace of 67.7mph, which will allow us to cover 541.6 a day. The weather looks like it will be pretty messy, which might make 5 days seems like 10. Route.

DAY ONE (Monday)

There is a tendril of moisture weaving through the Great Lakes today, bringing snow and colder air to the Eastern Great Lakes. It’s a cold front sinewing its way through the region from an area of low pressure moving into Eastern Canada, and meeting with a warm front attached to a low at the base of a trough in the Southern Plains. That boundary is going to start to back up tomorrow, and warm fronts and slow moving, nearly stationary fronts are bastions of ice and freezing rain. What I’m saying is, if they clear out the snow tonight in northern Ohio, it will pave the way to chemically treat the Ohio Turnpike ahead of a nasty bit of ice. It will snow everywhere on our route today and tonight, so it may make things a bit difficult in the early going, but life will turn miserable somewhere around Elyria, west of Cleveland, as snow will restart, joining rain, sleet and graupel to make for a terrific remainder of the day. We’ll make it to Hoyt, Indiana in the northeastern part of the state, befoe we call it a day.

DAY TWO (Tuesdsay)
If you thought it would get better on Tuesday, I am sad to say that you are mistaken. Enough warm air may infiltrate that we will leave Hoyt in the rain, but the center of low pressure itself is going to make a hard charge through Chicago, which means that cold air is going to wrap in, marking a quick change to snow, likely somewhere between South Bend and Chicago. We plan for 8 hour days, but I can assure you that driving through the Windy City in the grips of a nasty snow storm will take an extra couple hours on its own. What makes matters worse for us, after driving through the windy, snowy mess in Chicago, we will follow an inverted trough extending to the northwest. Not just follow it a little bit, but be under the gun for snow nearly all the way to the Twin Cities. Heavy to moderate snow will fall between Chicago and Madison, with light to moderate snow continuing through western Wisconsin. Fortunately, the demographics and the fact that the wind won’t be up will alleviate the traffic bugaboos of Chicago, but driving in the snow is a pain, even in a city familiar with it, like St. Paul. We will stop in Vadnais Heights, north of St. Paul, and it will probably be very late, if we persevere through the whole drive. Sleep well, it’s got to get better, right?

DAY THREE (Wednesday)
There will be quite a bit of churning in the atmosphere as we go through the Upper Midwest, but there won’t be a notable reflection at the surface. Thankfully, we are on the interstate the whole time, which means it will be totally plowed, and roads will get better and better with the drive. The day will end in Fryburg, North Dakota, which is right by Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

DAY FOUR (Thursday)
We are going to grow to hate the term “inverted trough”. One such feature angled northwest from a lee trough in Colorado will make things snowy across eastern Montana. Even through there isn’t much of a pressure gradient, and thereby likely not much wind, but the topography of the aea means that even with the slightest bit of wind, visibilities will be difficult. Guidance suggests that this is going to be a flatland type of feature, so when we start hitting the terrain in western Montana, we should be in the clear. Bozeman to our day four destination of Galen, Montana.

DAY FIVE (Friday)
Do you know what we need? A nice, clear driving day. We will get a nice clear morning and early afternoon. Is that good? Another tail attached to the snow we see on Thursday will bring a little bit of flurry activity, which will lay south of the Snake River. Yet another strong feature moving off the Gulf of Alaska will be moving into western Washington through the day. Snow on the western exposures of the Cascades will eventually turn to rain as we get closer to Puget Sound. Finally, we made it to Olympia.