Weather Slows Transportation On Heavy Pre-Holiday Travel Day With AM-Thanksgiving-Hugo Bjt
Undated (AP) _ Snow, dense fog and ice-covered roads slowed many people heading home for Thanksgiving on Wednesday, one of the heaviest travel days of the year with people packing highways, buses, trains and planes.
Because of fog on the West Coast and snow in the Midwest, the Federal Aviation Administration implemented a nationwide air traffic quota system early Wednesday, keeping planes on the ground until weather improved near their destinations, said Rob Doughty, a spokesman for United Airlines in Chicago.
″We’re going to try to get everybody over the river and through the woods to grandma’s house, but they have to be patient,″ said Tom Troske, operations manager at Salt Lake City’s airport, which was socked in by heavy fog part of the day.
This week’s high wind, slick roads and cold have been blamed for at least 14 deaths in Minnesota, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Maryland.
The worst weather for travelers Wednesday was fog in Utah that began rolling off Great Salt Lake on Tuesday. It sporadically reduced visibility at the airport from zero to about 1,200 feet, Troske said.
At Delta Airlines, the airport’s largest carrier, eight inbound and six outbound flights were canceled in the morning, said district manager Fred Rollins.
Larger, newer planes equipped with new radar enabling them to come in during zero visibility were allowed to land, but older planes such as Boeing 727s and 737s were being delayed, he said.
Fog also disrupted arriving and departing flights Wednesday at Portland International Airport in Oregon, although larger aircraft already on the ground were allowed to leave.
But Amtrak ticket agent Barbara Jackson in Portland said trains were full. ″It’s hectic and a pretty steady flow of people,″ she said.
Amtrak reservations on the Seattle-to-San Francisco and Seattle-to-Chicago runs Wednesday and Sunday had been sold out for two months, said spokesman Art Lloyd.
Fog also was a problem in more temperate areas, closing Orlando International Airport in Florida to arrivals until mid-morning and delaying motorists heading for the airport. Departures were unaffected.
Light snow fell at Chicago’s O’Hare airport, but no more than an inch was predicted.
An estimated 210,000 people were expected to pass Wednesday through O’Hare, the world’s busiest airport, with an additional 217,000 expected Sunday. The daily average is 160,000.
But United spokesman Doughty said his airline expected 42,000 customers Wednesday at O’Hare, fewer than the record 49,000 the day before Thanksgiving last year.
″Reservations are down and fares are up, the whole economy is softer,″ he said.
Six inches of snow blanketed parts of North Dakota on Wednesday, causing dozens of fender-benders accidents. For Thursday, blowing, drifting snow was expected with some temperatures only in the teens.
″For those going to Grandma’s house on Thursday morning, it may be kind of tricky,″ said Mark Ewens of the National Weather Service in Fargo, N.D.
Ice was the problem for travelers in northern New York state, covering roads in Plattsburgh, Chazy, Malone and around Lake Champlain, with blowing snow hampering visibility. In and around the Malone area snow was packed on roads and slush made driving treacherous, state police reported.
Elsewhere in the Empire State, New York City’s annual Thanksgiving eve ritual - gridlock created by holiday travelers and shoppers - was performed again Wednesday with more than 1 million cars, up 12 percent from normal, creating ″an avalanche of traffic.″
″It’s like lemmings marching into the sea,″ said city Department of Transportation spokesman Victor Ross.
Not everyone tried to get in or out of the Big Apple by car. At the Port Authority Bus Terminal, an estimated 280,000 people - up 25 percent from an average day - were moving through.
At the metropolitan area’s three airports - Newark, LaGuardia and Kennedy - 1 million passengers were expected Wednesday through Sunday, the Port Authority said.
Not everyone traveled. In Washington, hundreds of volunteers were already cooking for Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless, to be served at the West front of the U.S. Capitol, said Mitch Snyder, founder of the sponsoring Community for Creative Non-Violence.