Bad weather expected to hamper holiday travelers

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SALT LAKE CITY – A report from AAA Travel estimates 46.9 million people will be traveling 50 miles or more this Thanksgiving holiday, which means more cars on the roads and longer lines at the airport.

As the holiday approaches, bad weather will also move in and is expected to hit the area on Wednesday.

“It’ll be slippery really, all into northern Utah, really from about Wednesday afternoon through the nighttime hours,” said Brian McInernery with the National Weather Service.

NWS officials say a storm will move into northern Utah and Wyoming Wednesday afternoon.

“It won’t be as bad for the commute, but we will have snow down in the valley, even though it will be small amounts, and we will have snow in the mountains over Wednesday afternoon for the next 24 hours, into probably 36 hours,” McInernery said. “So it’ll be unsettled, not a lot of accumulation, but just enough to kind of mess with the commute during this time.”

The Utah Department of Transportation recommends people leave for their destinations earlier and pay closer attention on the roads.

“Patience is key this time of year,” said John Gleason, spokesman for UDOT. “We’re all out on the road, there’s a lot of congestion, we’re all in it together. Everybody’s trying to get to their destination, everybody’s trying to make it home for Thanksgiving. Just be patient and be a courteous driver.”

AAA estimates it will be the highest number of travelers on record. The good news is, gas is cheap right now. Most gas prices have fallen below the $2 per gallon national average.

But with more drivers, come more risks on the roads.

UDOT will be opening an additional lane of traffic on Interstate 15 near the point of the mountain Wednesday morning to help cars move through more quickly. Gleason suggested it may be a good idea for drivers to leave for their destinations earlier.

“If you have any flexibility at all, you may do yourself a favor by leaving today or even Tuesday,” Gleason said. “If you can get out of town a little bit ahead of that storm, you may do yourself a big favor.”

McInerney said he expects the storm to clear up by Thanksgiving Day and conditions should be back to normal for drivers traveling home on Friday.