Thanksgiving travel slowed by traffic congestion and weather

Sitting amid a pile of bags at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, Travis Everhardus learned his long trip had just gotten longer. His flight home to Kalamazoo, Mich., had been canceled, apparently because of fog.

‘I’m a little frustrated,’ Everhardus said after arriving from Charlotte, N.C.

Busy airports, congested roads and trains, and wet, foggy weather in parts of the country Sunday made the trip home an ordeal for many Thanksgiving travelers.

With the Air Transport Association predicting a record 2.24 million passengers, airport officials across the nation had prepared for the worst.

‘They’re all coming back at the same time,’ said Nancy Castles, spokeswoman for Los Angeles International Airport.

She said 205,000 passengers were expected, up from the estimated 195,000 to 200,000 on the final day of the holiday weekend a year ago.

Fog caused delays of at least one hour at the Los Angeles airport, while fog at San Francisco International Airport forced the cancellation of 20 flights and delayed others up to 2 1/2 hours.

Sleet and freezing rain affected travelers in New England, and delays at Logan International Airport in Boston averaged two hours Sunday night.

‘Considering the weather, we’ve been very lucky,’ said Jose Juves, spokesman for the Massachusetts Ports Authority.

It was easy sailing for other travelers despite the threat of cancellations due to labor strife. Mechanics for both United and Northwest Airlines are seeking new labor contracts.

United Airlines said there were 66 cancellations — 49 of them related to maintenance — out of 2,300 flights systemwide.

No major delays were reported at airports in Miami, Atlanta and Seattle. And travelers were pleasantly surprised by the lack of long lines at Boston’s Logan.

At Albany International Airport, volunteer ‘ambassadors’ and a group of local gospel singers were enlisted to calm travelers’ nerves.

The going was rough on many of the nation’s roads, too.

More than 60 accidents — some with serious injuries — were reported on the Maine Turnpike, Interstate 295 and other major highways in Maine.

Freezing rain led to dozens of wrecks and about 15 injuries in Rhode Island.

In Pennsylvania, at least 19 people were injured in a 50-car pileup on foggy Interstate 81. Poor weather and holiday traffic were blamed for at least three fatalities in other accidents in the state.

In Washington state’s Snoqualmie Pass, Interstate 90 was closed due to slick roads.

Amtrak spokeswoman Cecilia Cummings said there were no major delays or problems on its rail lines.

‘We’ve taken precautions,’ she said. ‘In the Northeast alone, we added 40 extra trains to our service.’

A record 38.9 million Americans — 4 percent more than last year — were expected to travel at least 100 miles from home for the holiday, according to the American Automobile Association.

United Shuttle pilot Eric Petersen was glad he was in uniform and not civilian clothes as he reported to work at Los Angeles airport Sunday.

‘I’d rather work these busy holidays than fly them as a passenger,’ he said. ‘At least that way I know I have a seat.’