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September 12, 2018 6:38 PM   Subscribe

Should I drive from Asheville, NC to the Florida panhandle this weekend, with a pit stop in ATL seeing as Hurricane Florence is moving in? Details inside.

I am (supposed to be) headed to Grayton State park, in the Florida panhandle (near Panama City, so not anywhere near Hurricane Florence) with a few friends leaving Saturday morning, staying till Wed. next week.

We are leaving from Asheville, NC, picking a friend up in Atlanta who is flying in from New York City, and then driving the rest of the way. It's about a 9 hour drive under ideal circumstances. We want to leave early Saturday, get her at the ATL airport, and keep going.

I feel iffy about this trip considering everything weather related going on the East coast this weekend.

Like, is it super likely that my friend's flight will be canceled or delayed coming into Atlanta from NYC Saturday morning? Or will there be gas shortages? Will it take us 20 hours to get there?

I know we are expected to get a ton of rain here in WNC, but I am not sure how that will affect travel, + it may end up not being a big deal since we are driving sort of away from the storm. Here's the route

I think if we cancel by tomorrow afternoon, we can get a full refund on the cabin we had rented, and I know my friend can postpone her ticket for up to a year.

My friends are being kind of ride-or-die about this trip, but I'm like, maybe we should just postpone it? IDK. thoughts?
posted by Rocket26 to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total)
Definitely avoid 85 to ATL. It’s got construction along a lot of it and backs up very easily. I can’t speak to the other routes or the rest of the way.
posted by raccoon409 at 6:44 PM on September 12, 2018

I can't imagine traffic being impacted besides in a "well this is a bit more than normal" sort of way once you get PAST Atlanta. Plus you could (should?) always take backroads so you won't be on the main track (which I'd define as 20 to B'ham or I-75) after the mayhem that is (always) Atlanta.

If you do take backroads, which is what google maps tells me ATL -> Columbus -> Eufaula -> Dothan -> I - 10 -> destination, you'll be fine. I co-op'd in Eufaula and know that area a bit, it's typical for small town, rural Alabama/Southern GA. I'm trying to remember recommendations for that route and am coming up with nothing so that probably tells you something.

I can't speak to the flight logistics or what you might face on the North/Eastern side of ATL but I'd think you're in better shape than many folks as far as after that part of your journey.

Good luck!
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:11 PM on September 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

Based on the latest projection as I type this, on Saturday morning the storm will be somewhere right around the NC-SC border and heading west. The storm is over 200 miles wide. You will be driving directly into its path. The conditions will be substantially less than ideal.

As I imagine you are aware, Interstate 85 has the potential to be dreadful on a perfectly calm, clear day but you are proposing to travel through torrential downpours through an area that may be congested with evacuees from the coast. The flight may be canceled. Gasoline may be unobtainable. Power may be out (no ATMs). Roads may be flooded. Sure, everything might be fine, but there is way to much risk and uncertainty involved in trying to race across the path of this potentially historic storm.

If you left NOW everything would be fine, but trying to make this drive on Saturday is the worst possible time to attempt it.

If I were in your position, I would seek alternative plans and attempt no travel on Saturday. If I just HAD to go, I would at least wait until after the storm has diminished and gauge the travel conditions then, or I would leave on Thursday or maybe Friday as early as possible.
posted by glonous keming at 7:15 PM on September 12, 2018 [18 favorites]

Oh, crap, I didn't read those dates correctly. Yep, glonous has a point. I stand by the fact that things will be less than mayhem after ATL but getting to ATL would be a nightmare either due to weather, traffic, or both if you left after the storm hit, on major highways, heading into a hub city that's already traffic prone in the best of times.

Can you camp out in ATL and await your buddy there a day or two ahead of her arrival?
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:21 PM on September 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

For a visual representation of glonous keming's excellent explanation, have a look through the current maps from The National Hurricane Center. Most relevant for your purposes: rainfall projections and wind speed probabilities and earliest reasonable arrival time of tropical-storm force winds.

It's not clear yet if the storm will stall or turn, and steering currents are weak. You might be fine, but you might also have a really bad time of it. It's also possible your friend's flight will be cancelled; Georgia is under a State of Emergency for Florence and some flights are already being cancelled. If you do decide to try, have your friend check with the airline and sign up for flight alerts; even then, the flight may be changed or cancelled with little notice, maybe just 24h before, or even less. I've had flights out of NYC cancelled the day before just for predicted thunderstorms, so it's not at all unlikely.
posted by halation at 7:25 PM on September 12, 2018

I've been known to drive in situations where I shouldn't but I agree with glonous, driving that route on saturday is going to be very risky. Looking at the projections the hurricane is going to be right where you're driving, but starting saturday night and into sunday. Personally I would probably feel comfortable leaving asheville tomorrow or friday morning, but I would not feel comfortable driving saturday morning. Once you're at Atlanta and south you should be fine.

I'm in Raleigh and there are absolutely gas shortages here, I had to try 3 stations before I found any. By the time you want to leave saturday I would say there is a high chance of there being gas shortages farther west by where you are. Traffic will probably be better along 23 than 85, but the roads aren't as big from what I remember.
posted by JZig at 7:27 PM on September 12, 2018

Isn't 40 to 75 the best way from Asheville to Atlanta? At any rate, if I had to make this drive this weekend, I'd use that route, not 85.
posted by thelonius at 7:36 PM on September 12, 2018

Here's the most recent forecast for GA. It's better than expected. I wouldn't cancel just yet.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:40 PM on September 12, 2018

I think you should go ahead and cancel in time to get the refund. It’s too much uncertainty and risk. There will almost certainly be flight delays and cancellations this weekend, and you’re likely to feel uneasy for most of the trip (just based on the tone of your question). If you get a refund and reschedule the trip, it sounds like you’ll have a better time overall.
posted by witchen at 9:33 PM on September 12, 2018 [4 favorites]

Currently you can cancel with little loss. You go on Saturday and get a worst case scenario, besides ruining your trip you could end up spending a tonne on stupid unplanned things. Not worth it.
posted by kitten magic at 3:07 AM on September 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

Your friend's flight may be delayed because of the hurricane and the need to re-book many, many people and planes not being able to get where they're supposed to be. I'd call the airline, see if you can get a god rep, and ask them what they think; they are likely to be at least as competent as Internet strangers.
posted by theora55 at 6:29 AM on September 13, 2018

Isn't 40 to 75 the best way from Asheville to Atlanta?

No: I-40 to US 74 to US 23 to I-85 is the quieter back way, and it keeps you further west for longer.

The current forecast is pushing the severest inland effects back to Sunday/Monday, so you may be okay driving on Saturday morning if you're comfortable with normal bad weather driving. (And I'd agree with a Columbus-Dothan route onwards.) However, those kinds of flights into ATL are the most susceptible to cancellations or delays because of knock-on effects from earlier disruption.

But I'd be inclined to postpone. Too many moving parts.
posted by holgate at 8:29 AM on September 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

How did it go? (I tried to answer this question but basically concluded I had nothing to add.)
posted by madcaptenor at 10:31 AM on September 17, 2018

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