Biggest Travel Day Of The Year - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

11/23/05-Washington, D.C.

Biggest Travel Day Of The Year

Millions of Americans hit the road, lined up at airports and headed for bus and train stations Wednesday to get home in time for Thanksgiving turkey on what's historically the biggest travel day of the year.

AAA said more than 37 million people will be traveling during the holiday weekend, undeterred by snow and more expensive gasoline, rental cars and hotel rooms.

Snow was already falling Wednesday morning across parts of Michigan and Indiana, but Kate Kehoe said she wasn't too worried about her trip from Ann Arbor to Flint.

"I'm glad gas is not $3 anymore," the preschool teacher said Wednesday morning as she filled her tank.

The forecast for highway travel was almost matched by numbers expected on airplanes. The Air Transport Association, which represents major airlines, predicted 21.7 million people would fly on U.S. airlines from November 19 to November 29, slightly more than the record number a year ago.

"Air fares are up probably roughly $40 ... since last February, but that hasn't deterred people," Terry Trippler, an airline analyst with CheapSeats.com, told AP Radio.

Snow threatened to create messy travel conditions across the Great Lakes states and south into the central Appalachians.

However, light snowfall during the morning caused no problems at Chicago's O'Hare and Midway airports, which expected to handle nearly 2 million passengers during the holiday weekend, said Chicago Department of Aviation spokeswoman Wendy Abrams.

Snow in Indiana contributed to numerous wrecks during the morning rush but no serious injuries were reported.

"It's the first snowfall of the year and people don't have the winter habits yet," said state Trooper Robert Brophy at Fort Wayne, Indiana. "Every year at the first snow, people forget how to drive since the end of last year's snow."

Snow showers were possible as far south as North Carolina, where Mount Mitchell had collected 10 inches since Tuesday, and a winter storm watch was in effect through Thursday evening for the West Virginia and Maryland panhandles, the National Weather Service said.

For hundreds of motorists, the day started with a miles-long traffic jam on Washington's Capital Beltway after a tanker truck carrying 8,700 gallons of gasoline exploded on Interstate 95 just north of the city around 5 a.m.

"This is not what we needed to start this travel day," said Lon Anderson, spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic.

No injuries were reported, but motorists closest to the scene in Beltsville, Maryland, were told to abandon their cars for fear of a larger explosion. I-95 was partially reopened by 8:15 a.m.

Some travelers packed up and left a day early.

"I wanted to beat the rush," Joe Lamport said Tuesday after arriving at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport with his family.

The airport reported 289,597 passengers on Tuesday, nearly 4,100 more than what was expected Wednesday.

Lines were longer than last Thanksgiving at Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport on Wednesday because the Transportation Security Administration had cut back on screeners, said Patrick Hogan, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Airports Commission, which operates the airport.

Amtrak put an extra 60 trains in service this week in the Northeast Corridor, but many trains were already sold out, Amtrak spokesman Cliff Black told AP Radio.

Amtrak spokeswoman Tracy Connell said 125,000 people last year traveled on Amtrak trains the day before Thanksgiving, up 80 percent from the 69,000 who ride the trains on an average day.

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