Heavy lines at RDU, packed highways mark start of NC holiday

Lines at RDU pick up on Wednesday morning. (WNCN)

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – A heavy travel day is underway Wednesday as travelers across North Carolina hit the roads and skies for Thanksgiving.

Overall, AAA expects this to be the most traveled Thanksgiving week since 2007, led in part by low gas prices. Lines at Raleigh-Durham International Airport were long Wednesday morning. But around 75 percent of flights were on time, according to WNCN.com’s Flight Tracker.

Temperatures in central North Carolina will climb to 60 degrees on Wednesday, WNCN meteorologist Alyssa Corfont said. And Thanksgiving is looking to be pleasant as well, with a high of 62 and only a few clouds.

Temperatures on Friday in central North Carolina should hit 68 degrees as shoppers head out for Black Friday sales.

Weather up and down the East Coast looks pleasant, WNCN’s Corfont said.

But if you are flying from North Carolina or driving for the holiday, the middle part of the United States could have some rain Wednesday. Across Texas and Oklahoma, there could be rain and even a few storms.

The holiday comes at a time of low gas prices. The average price for a gallon of regular gas in North Carolina is $2.04 per gallon, according to GasBuddy.com. that’s 71 cents cheaper than a year ago. The lowest price in Raleigh is $1.86 per gallon.

“It’s pretty wild,” Drew Tucker said Monday in Raleigh while getting gas. “I usually pay $2.15 or $2.20 a gallon.”

AAA Carolinas expects 1.3 million North Carolinians to travel at least 50 miles during the Thanksgiving holiday. The North Carolina Department of Transportation is putting most construction projects on hold from Wednesday through Sunday. More State Highway Patrolmen will be out.

Nationally, AAA expects 46.9 million people to travel at least 50 miles this Thanksgiving, up 300,000 over last year and the most since 2007. AAA said 42 million Americans could be driving.

Early Wednesday, eastbound traffic on I-40 was snarled as a tractor trailer spilled a chicken by product on the highway. It backed up traffic for seven miles.

“I wanted to pull my hair out strand by strand than to sit in that traffic,” said driver Eboni Harrell.

Sgt. Michael Baker with the State Highway Patrol said the NCDOt responded immediately.

“[The NCDOT] attempted to put down some sand onto the highway,” Baker said.

Airfares are down about 10 percent this Thanksgiving.

Raleigh-Durham International Airport expects to be extremely busy with 30,000 passengers in and out of the airport on Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday.

“We expect about 5 percent more travelers this Thanksgiving holiday season compared to last year so it’s going to be very busy,” said Mindy Hamlin, director of communications and community affairs at RDU. “But we have a lot of people here to assist our customers. The TSA will have all their security screening checkpoints open so things should move smoothly as long as people give themselves enough time.”

Those who do fly will face tighter security at airports in light of the Paris terrorist attacks. Officials at Raleigh-Durham International Airport have advised passengers to arrive two hours ahead of their flight.

Late Monday, The U.S. Department of State issued a worldwide travel alert due to the increase of terrorist threats. This alert lasts until Feb. 24.

Denise Marshall, traveling Wednesday at RDU, said, “I travel for a living so I’m used to traveling through these terrorist threats and fear and so forth, but I’m not going to live my life in fear. I try not to let it worry me.”

Heather Tyler called the situation “a little unnerving” but added, “You can’t live your live worrying so we’re going to go and we’re going to have fun.”

Keith Cox said the terror alert “crossed my mind, so I am here early. I’m here early so I wouldn’t have to wait too long and miss my flight.”

Some people decided to track the train instead.

Michael Smith decided to take the train to Wilmington rather than drive.

“I usually take 40 and it’s always packed,” Smith said. “It makes traveling frustrating. So this time I decided to let somebody else do the traveling for me.”


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