Passengers wait in line to board their trains at Union Station, Nov. 21, 2012 for the Thanksgiving holidays. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
What was shaping up to be a normal Thanksgiving -- or, OK, a normal Thanksgivukkah, even though it's the last one in about 79,000 years -- has turned weird and worrisome with the arrival of chilly, rainy weather to complicate travel plans.
And even if you're not traveling, you still have to worry about exploding your deep-fried turkey (by the way, here's how NOT to do that) and how many layers to wear if you're sleeping outside a Best Buy on Thursday night (we're gonna say five).
Here are 12 other things you should know about Thanksgiving this year:
WHAT'S WITH THE WEATHER?
This will be the chilliest Thanksgiving in a decade. And in advance of the holiday, some heavy rain and possible sleet will likely wreak havoc travel conditions by road and air.
A light wintry mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain is expected west of I-95 midday Tuesday, with a winter weather advisory in effect until 1 p.m. for areas west and north of the city. Heavy rain (up to 2 inches) is expected Tuesday night, and in case that isn't inconvenient enough for your travel plans, we could also see a light dusting of snow Wednesday.
One- to three-hour airline delays are likely in inclement weather, and just a little rain is enough to snarl traffic on I-95, says Storm Team 4. Check out FlightAware.com's "Misery Map" showing delays and cancellations and be prepared to leave early.
SIGH... IS IT TOO LATE TO JUST TAKE THE BUS?
Nah, you're fine. If you're worried about traveling in bad weather, you can still book a train or bus ticket. Both Amtrak and many bus lines have added extra departures for the holidays, and seats are still available on both. Megabus, for instance, has buses leaving Union Station for New York every 15 minutes Wednesday.
Just remember that you'll likely pay more if you're buying tickets at the last minute.
WHICH HIGHWAY REST STOPS HAVE PRECIOUS, PRECIOUS WIFI?
If you're headed north, you're in luck – both the Chesapeake House in Maryland and the Delaware Welcome Center in, well, Delaware have free wifi, so feel free to download that digital audio book without killing your data plan.
YOU DIDN'T MENTION THE MARYLAND HOUSE. IS IT STILL CLOSED?
Sorry, but yes -- the Maryland House on I-95 remains closed for renovations, and is not expected to reopen until late this year or early 2014. This means that parking at the Chesapeake House will probably be challenging to snag. Be patient. If possible.
Find info on other Maryland rest stops here.
HOW CAN I GET THE LATEST TRAVEL INFO?
No, Twitter isn't just for celebrity selfies. Follow NBC Washington's traffic account @first4traffic, as well as any accounts that would cover your planned route, such as @TheMDTA, @MD511State, @MD511StatePP, @VaDOTNOVA, @DDOTDC, @Amtrak, @AmtrakNEC and @VaRailExpress.
If you or your family members are travelling by train, use Amtrak's new Track a Train system on Amtrak.com, which provides close to real-time info on the statuses or more than 300 trains each day, plus arrival estimates and station info. To use it, go to Amtrak.com and click on the Status tab on the left.
I NEED BETTER GAS MILEAGE -- HELP!
Gas prices have dropped compared to this time last year, but that's not always enough. Good tire pressure helps with gas mileage (yes, your dad really was right). Since tire pressure is known to decrease in colder temperatures, check it before you hit the road, even if you think it's fine.
WHEN'S THE BEST TIME TO LEAVE?
Considering that about 43 million people are expected to travel for Thanksgiving, you probably should have left sometime around... September.
In all seriousness, the off-peak times are best, such as very early in the morning; late at night, or even in the middle of the day if you must -- because at least you're not competing with normal rush hour traffic.
Don't try to fight your circadian rhythm if you're too tired to drive, though. Driving while drowsy cuts down on reaction times, and you never want to risk falling asleep at the wheel. If you must drive when tired, turn the radio on, open a window for chilly air, or talk to a passenger.
If you're considering a train or bus and your presence at festivities isn't required on Wednesday, traveling Thursday morning -- once the rainy weather has passed -- might be your most headache-free option.
CAN I USE MY PHONE WHILE DRIVING?
EEK! HOW LONG DO I NEED TO DEFROST A TURKEY?
If that thing is still in the freezer, it might be too late -- unless it's teeny-tiny, or you want to have "Thanksgiving" on Saturday. You need at least 24 hours in the fridge for every five pounds of turkey, according to the USDA. That means a 12-16 pound turkey will need 3-4 days in the fridge.
But fear not; there is a solution, although it's more labor-intensive. Cover the turkey in cold water and change the water every 30 minutes to keep it cold. This will speed up the process to 30 minutes for each pound of turkey, so a 12-16 pound turkey can defrost in 6-8 hours.
AND HOW LONG SHOULD I COOK IT?
The USDA recommends cooking turkeys at 325 degrees Fahrenheit. You can roast it from 90 minutes to five hours, depending on its size, but the most important factor in cooking a turkey is the internal temperature. Make sure that it reaches a minimum of 165 degrees.
Check the temperature with a meat thermometer in the innermost part of the thigh and wing, and the thickest part of the breast.
ARE BLACK FRIDAY DEALS AS ELUSIVE AS A UNICORN?
The days of big Black Friday deals are dunzo, says News4 Consumer Reporter Liz Crenshaw. Despite all the advertising, data suggests that due to increased competition, prices are actually lower at other times of year.
For instance, a 46" Samsung flat-screen TV that sold for about $1,500 on Black Friday went for only $678 during a summer sale. While some prices really are lower on Black Friday, be careful -- retailers usually make only a limited number available in hopes that you show up and buy something else instead.
I'M NOT ASHAMED TO ASK ABOUT THURSDAY-NIGHT SHOPPING.
"Thanksgiving creep" is here, whether or not everyone approves. If you're planning on shopping Thursday night, or just heading out early on Friday, consult our list of what times local stores and malls open their doors.