NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Some Thanksgiving travelers along the East Coast were heading out early throughout the day Tuesday, because of a forecast calling for a nor'easter that will bring rain and snow.
Some flights were already canceled as of late Tuesday, and some schools had already called off classes for Wednesday.
"I think people are saying 'we might get a few inches, but what if we get a lot and get snowed in,'" Tony Otro told CBS2's Weijia Jiang.
Traffic jams lasted well past rush hour on Tuesday, and so did lines to get gas along the New Jersey Turnpike.
"The traffic getting out of Manhattan tonight was unbelievable. The night before the worst travel night was the worst travel night we've had in a long time, so tomorrow we're hoping for the best," TJ Moroney said.
The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm watch from Wednesday morning through Thursday morning for New York City as well as for parts of Long Island, Westchester County, New Jersey and Connecticut.
A winter storm warning was also issued for parts of the lower Hudson Valley and northeast New Jersey.
Late Tuesday, CBS2's Lonnie Quinn forecast that most of the Tri-State Area would see a rain-snow mix. The shoreline areas on Long Island and New Jersey, as well as the Rockaways and the Brooklyn shoreline, will see rain, Quinn forecast.
Areas north and west of the city – specifically north of Route 84 -- will see all snow.
Forecasters say 1 to 3 inches of snow is possible in the city with 3 to 6 inches expected just north and west of the city. More than 6 inches of snow could fall in the far northwest suburbs.
The precipitation is expected to start as rain before changing to wet snow in the afternoon and evening.
Travelers at Newark Liberty International Airport were getting out of Dodge early on Tuesday night, avoiding the busiest travel day of the year, and escaping whatever mother nature throws our way.
"It's going to be warmer in Iceland than it is going to be here, and there's no snow there," Iceland bound Maurice Castelbuono told CBS2's Tracee Carrasco.
Marianne and Michael Terrigno were headed to Virginia from Long Island and were already delayed.
"Normally it should only take six hours. It's probably going to take eight," Michael said.
Snow Threatens Thanksgiving Getaway
NJ TRANSIT is taking steps to ease the commute in advance of the storm. Buses and trains will cross-honor tickets system wide beginning Wednesday.
Trains will operate on a weekday schedule on all lines. Additional "early getaway'' service will be available from New York, Newark and Hoboken Terminal starting at 1 p.m. Wednesday.
Selected bus routes will operate on special holiday schedules so passengers should check in advance.
NJ TRANSIT executive director Veronique Haim says it is the commuter mass transit agency's busiest travel day of the year.
The New York City Department of Sanitation has issued a snow alert for Wednesday, meaning crews are ready with plows and salt trucks.
Con Edison said crews are ready to respond to any power outages that may occur because of the storm.
It says the weight of the snow could bring down power lines and road salt mixing with snow could cause damage to underground electrical wiring.
North of the city, highway officials and crews were preparing the plows and salt trucks Tuesday.
In White Plains, where mass transit and highways converge, even a glancing blow during the holiday getaway could be disastrous, WCBS 880's Lou Young reported. They have a hundred trucks in motion.
"We're throwing everything we can at it," said Bud Nicoletti, White Plains public works director. "We've had brine trucks out all day presalting the roads to get a little edge on it. We're going to kill ourselves to make sure it's as safe as it can be for Thursday morning. Wednesday night is going to be a little problematic."
In Yorktown, officials are bracing for more accumulation and worrying about getting stuck in traffic.
"We have 53 trucks going out with plows and salt, five hours to do the entire town and 400 lane-miles of road, so less people on the road the better for us," said Dave Paganelli, Yorktown highway superintendent.
Rain, Snow Threatens Thanksgiving Getaway
In Hawthorne, where its traffic management center monitors patterns for the entire Hudson Valley, motorists are being warned to expect the worst.
"You could run out of gas if you're stuck in traffic for a long period of time," state police Lt. Erik Rudolph said. "You might need a blanket to stay warm. It's important to keep you cellphone available so you can call 911 if you need to contact emergency personnel."
In Rockland County, the highway department is preparing its 28 snow plows.
"We go out as soon as we see the first flake," Supervisor Bernard Hughes tells WCBS 880's Peter Haskell.
Rain, Snow Threatens Thanksgiving Getaway
The storm is threatening to slow travel as many get away for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
"I would pack your patience,'' said Robert Sinclair of AAA New York. "Unfortunately, the storm is scheduled to hit right in the middle of getaway day.''
Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy is also urging travelers to consider the weather when heading out the door for the holiday.
"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," Malloy said in a statement. "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."
Officials at the three major airports in the New York City area were "monitoring weather forecasts carefully,'' and were ready to take action if needed, said Steve Coleman, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
People were already trying to get a jump start on their travel at LaGuardia Airport on Tuesday afternoon, CBS2's Alice Gainer reported.
"Coming here? Except for some traffic on the LIE," said Gregg Greenblatt of Long Island. "Everything's been great. Looking forward to getting out of here before the big traffic tomorrow."
Christian Fernandez and his family planned to leave earlier than usual this year to beat the crowds and the weather.
"That's something we've definitely got to avoid," he told CBS2's Ilana Gold.
James Richardson did not book his flight until Tuesday morning to go home to Lafayette, Louisiana.
He said he was fortunate that the airport was not too crowded, "because I'm a little late for my flight."
Out of the tens of millions expected to travel this Thanksgiving weekend, 8 percent said they will do so by air.
Air travel this holiday week will be at its highest since 2007, with more than 3.5 million Americans taking to the skies.
Many were grateful to dodge any impending wintry weather that could ruin an otherwise nice time.
"I'm more happy that I avoided the nor'easter getting in here, because that's going to be a problem tomorrow," said Nicole Greco of Brooklyn.
American Airlines was allowing passengers flying to some Northeast cities on Wednesday to move their flight, for free, to Tuesday or Thursday. Delta Air Lines had a similar waiver for Wednesday flights to the region, but it was letting passengers only reschedule for flights on Thursday or Friday, which might be too late for many travelers.
And as CBS2's Elise Finch reported, some travelers who were getting away by car hit the road on Tuesday if they were able to do so.
"Looking at the weather reports early on gave me to the decision to try and beat the traffic and beat the weather," said traveler Robert Tate.
Mary O'Shaughnessy took her children out of school Tuesday so her family could start their drive to Pennsylvania.
"We always leave on Tuesday just from past experience," she said. "Because of the weather coming, we figured there would be more traffic. Other people leaving earlier and we didn't want to get stuck in that traffic."
Her son, Charlie Munn, thought the early escape was a good idea.
"I think it's good, because then, we get an extra day before Thanksgiving to hang out and stuff," he said.
Each year, AAA advises people against leaving after work on Wednesday. Traffic is the worst at that time.
But because of the weather expected this year, the optimal travel window is even narrower.
"Very early Wednesday before the storm hits -- if you have that vacation time; that spare day, leave then. That way you'll beat the rush for the most part," said AAA spokesman Robert Sinclair. "And if your destination is your three or four hours away, you can wait until early Thanksgiving morning and make your trip then."
The CBS2 Futurecast indicated that while the rain and snow are expected to being around mid-morning in the Tri-State Area, rain and snow will cover most of the East Coast on Wednesday. Travelers headed south can expect to be driving into precipitation no matter what time they leave on Wednesday.
Snow will impact areas north and west of the Tri-State Area. Drivers seeking to avoid it should get on the road before 9 a.m. Wednesday, or wait until Thursday morning – because experts say it is too dangerous to drive overnight.
"If you're accustomed to being asleep during those hours, and you haven't gotten sufficient rest, there's a nasty little phenomenon known as micro-sleep -- where you drift off for two, or three, or five seconds when you're behind the wheel," Sinclair said. "It's a formula for disaster."
Sinclair also noted that an estimated 41.3 million travelers were expected to hit the nation's highways for the holiday weekend. That's a 4.3 percent increase over last year.
He suggested travelers consider traveling on Tuesday or Thursday, instead of Wednesday, if they can.
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