It won’t be a white Christmas, but the highways will be busy
December 24, 2013 12:47 AM
Many to hit the road on holiday
By Jon Schmitz / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
From Atlantic to Pacific, gee, the traffic is terrific.”
— From “There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays,” as crooned by Perry Como and others
According to AAA, those lyrics will ring true like never before, with record numbers of Americans traveling for the holidays.
Three in 10 will travel at least 50 miles from home in the period that began Saturday and concludes Jan. 1, according to the auto club.
That’s 94.5 million people, with 85.8 million of them using the highways to reach their destinations. The road traffic represents a nearly 1 percent increase from last year. The friendly skies will be less crowded, though, with a forecast descent of 1.4 percent in air travel, AAA said.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike expects more than 3.8 million to use America’s First Superhighway from today through New Year’s Day, with the heaviest traffic expected today and on Christmas Day.
Drivers can keep themselves aware of possible delays using the TripTalk mobile application available on the turnpike’s website, www.paturnpike.com. Once activated, it delivers audio alerts whenever there’s trouble ahead.
AAA East Central sees trouble ahead for about 46,000 drivers in the region that comprises Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, New York and Kentucky. That’s the number of stranded motorists it expects to help during the holidays.
The auto club said dead batteries, drivers stuck in snow or mud and flat tires will be the leading woes. It expects that more than 15,000 motorists will require tows.
For those staying close to home, the balmy weather of the last weekend will be a distant memory. Sunday’s high of 72 in Pittsburgh wiped out the previous record for the date, 67 in 1949.
After having bottomed out in the low 20s overnight, temperatures will remain below freezing through Christmas Day, with snow showers possible today. A flood advisory was posted, and the Monongahela Wharf and trails on both sides of the Allegheny River in Downtown Pittsburgh took on water.
A lake effect snow warning was posted for Erie County through 10 p.m. today.
Port Authority will operate regular service today and use holiday schedules on Christmas Day, including a special schedule on the Light Rail Transit system. Regular service will resume on Thursday. Details are available at www.portauthority.org.
Elsewhere, people were feeling the hangover of nasty weekend weather. Snow and ice disrupted power to more than 400,000 customers in Michigan, upstate New York and northern New England, with some expected to remain in the dark through Christmas Day.
At least nine deaths in the U.S. were blamed on the storm, including five people killed in flooding in Kentucky and a woman who died after a tornado with winds of 130 mph struck in Arkansas.
In Ohio, heavy rains left many low-lying roads and highways blocked. In Findlay, 47 miles south of Toledo, the Blanchard River rose 12 feet since Friday to major flood-stage levels.
Jon Schmitz: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1868. Visit the PG’s transportation blog, The Roundabout, at www.post-gazette.com/Roundabout. Twitter: @pgtraffic. The Associated Press contributed.
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