12/21/06 — Holiday travelers could face weather issues in some areas

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Holiday travelers could face weather issues in some areas

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on December 21, 2006 1:45 PM

Wayne County residents wishing for a white Christmas will be disappointed come Monday, but travelers will need to keep a close eye on the weather this weekend if they venture outside the county or state.

The local weather on Friday will be rainy with temperatures staying in the 50s. The rain will continue Saturday, but temperatures will climb higher into the mid-60s.

Across the nation on Friday and Saturday, travelers can also expect rain across the East Coast stretching to Louisiana and Michigan. Snow should fall across the Midwest in North and South Dakota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Idaho, Utah and Colorado on Friday. Those snowstorms should push south by Saturday, affecting New Mexico, Colorado and the Texas panhandle.

During the holiday weekend, AAA expects more than 1.62 million people driving more than 50 miles from their homes, which makes it the fourth straight year of increases in holiday automobile travel, AAA Carolinas spokesperson Sarah Davis said.

Because of the record number of people expected on North Carolina roads, the state Department of Transportation announced Tuesday it will suspend most road construction from 4 p.m. Friday through 9 a.m. Jan. 2.

But the transportation department will have lanes closed on two N.C. routes in Pender County from Dec. 27 to Dec. 29. N.C. 133 will be reduced to one lane from N.C. 210 to U.S. 117, and N.C. 210 will be reduced to one lane from N.C. 421 to the Bladen County line, according to the department.

Transportation officials want to remind drivers to stay alert, be patient and to obey the speed limit. If possible, they also suggest that drivers to travel early or at non-peak travel times and use alternate routes.

The automobile association also expects more than 320,000 people to travel by air, Mrs. Davis said. Raleigh-Durham International Airport spokeswoman Mindy Hamlin said the airport expects to serve about 150,000 passengers throughout the holiday weekend, with 33,000 departing or arriving on Friday.

To receive e-mail alerts on the status of airports across the country, visit the Federal Aviation Administration's Web site at www.faa.gov and select the travelers' link. The site also provides a link to check on any possible delays at national airports.

At the RDU International Airport, Ms. Hamlin said passengers should arrive two hours before their departure time to ensure a parking space and getting through the ticket area and security before their flight departs. The busiest airport times will be flights between 6-9 a.m. and 3-7 p.m., Ms. Hamlin said.

There are about 11,000 garage parking spaces between the terminals at RDU Airport, and the airport also provides park and ride service at other parking lots. Ms. Hamlin said she suggests people going to RDU Airport look for electronic signs that tell travelers what parking is available.

Passengers will need a government-issued identification card to receive a boarding pass and to go through any security checkpoints. Carry-on luggage must be limited to one bag and one personal item. Also, Ms. Hamlin said passengers should remove any lighters or sharp objects from carry-on luggage and place those items in checked luggage before arriving at the airport.

Liquid items, such as toiletries, must be in containers less than 3 ounces in size and be placed in a quart-sized clear plastic, zipped-top bag. Passengers are limited to one clear, zipped bag of liquids per person.

People traveling with Christmas gifts need to wait until arriving at their destination before wrapping them. If wrapped before a flight, the gifts could be unwrapped at a security checkpoint or during a random security check, Ms. Hamlin said.

Whether on the road or in the air, the weather will be varied for travelers across the country.

If residents are staying in the county or have family members visiting, the weather should be calm and cloudy throughout the weekend with temperatures ranging from highs in the mid-50s and lows in the mid-30s. Those storms should dissipate in North Carolina by Christmas Eve, but others across the South and in Texas will see some rain.

In other parts of the country, Christmas Eve should be cold and possibly snowy for people in the Northwest and northeast United States.

As children wake up Christmas Day to open gifts, it should be mostly cloudy and in the upper 30s in Wayne County. Nearly every state north of North Carolina from Washington to Maine, including California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico, should see snowfall on Christmas Day.

If people wait until Tuesday to return to Wayne County, showers are expected for the area with temperatures ranging from 59 to 34 degrees. Other rainy places the day after Christmas will include the Midwest, Northeast and the western parts of North Carolina.