Thanksgiving travel: What to expect

Thanksgiving travelers should see tighter security at airports, bus and train stations, and mostly clear but cold weather east of the Rockies.

(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department K9 Officer Mark Carrillo, with his dog, Benny, guard Union Station in advance of the Thanksgiving holiday on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015, in Los Angeles.

More people in the US are traveling for turkey this year, in a time of heightened security alerts and the cheapest gas since 2008. 

About 46.9 million Americans are expected to take a plane, train or automobile at least 50 miles from home over the long Thanksgiving weekend, according to the travel organization AAA. That number is an increase of more than 300,000 people over last year, and the most travelers since 2007.

Expect tighter security at airports, bus and train stations, and mostly clear weather east of the Rockies. State troopers will be out in force, and highway construction will be brought to a stop in parts of the country. And in Detroit, they are sending in the clowns.

Anyone headed for a major airport should tack an extra 50 minutes on the road, according to the traffic date company INRIX — and that's just to get to the airport. Don't forget about getting through security.

Though the US terror alert status remains unchanged, recent attacks in Paris, West Africa and elsewhere prompted the State Department to warn American travelers about the risks overseas.

While getting through security may be slower, organizers of Detroit's Thanksgiving Day parade are working to lighten the mood at Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

The Parade Co. says in a release that members of the Distinguished Clown Corps will greet air travelers Wednesday, handing out beads to people arriving at the airport in the Detroit suburb of Romulus.

In New Jersey, travelers may note a higher security presence. The Port Authority has stationed more officers at its airports, bus terminals, train stations and Hudson River crossings. The added officials comes with more options from New Jersey Transit, which is adding early getaway rail service Wednesday from New York, Newark and Hoboken, as well as extra buses on select routes from the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City.

If going by train, Amtrak officials recommend travelers use the Track a Train tool on its website to check estimated arrival times and station information. They also recommend eTicketing, which allows passengers to use a smartphone or their computer printer to get their ticket, making for shorter lines at ticket counters.

On the roads, New York State Police say they will team up with local agencies Wednesday through Sunday to put a stop to impaired, distracted and speeding drivers, along with sobriety checkpoints and unmarked vehicles; all tactics North Dakota troopers have announced they will be using as well.

Virginia Department of Transportation is suspending highway work zones during the long Thanksgiving holiday, opening the roads up to ease traffic. 

Weather-wise the map is clear for much of the east over the holiday, with rain and snow in the West on Wednesday before precipitation makes its way to the middle states by Thanksgiving Day, Weather.com reports.

This system will then direct its energy and moisture into the Plains starting Thanksgiving Day and continuing into much of the holiday weekend, bringing a mess of snow, sleet and freezing rain, not to mention heavy rain.

Wednesday, snow, locally heavy in spots, will persist over parts of Wyoming, Utah, southern Idaho, southern Montana, southern Oregon, northern Nevada and the Sierra of California. 

Blizzard warnings have been posted for portions of southern Wyoming as stronger winds accompanying the snow and arctic cold front could lead to areas reduced visibility in blowing and drifting snow. This is particularly of concern over ridgetops and mountain passes

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