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Prepare for tricky Thanksgiving travel

Gas prices are climbing, Charlotte airport parking is limited, and the weather is supposed to be bad.

But that won’t stop an estimated 1.7 million Carolinas residents from traveling 50 miles or more this year for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Motorists will account for 90 percent of the travelers, but Charlotte Douglas International Airport will be a very busy place over the next six days. AAA Carolinas says the highest percentage of travelers (37 percent) will leave Wednesday, and the favorite return day (33 percent) is Sunday.

The forecast for bad weather up the East Coast has spurred US Airways and Delta Airlines to relax the rules on rescheduling flights. Passengers who were supposed to fly to a number of destinations north of Charlotte will be able to reschedule flights for later in the week without paying a penalty.

Steve Lyttle

Air travel

Bad weather is expected up the East Coast on Tuesday and Wednesday, and that could wreak havoc with flight schedules. “If there are low visibilities and windy conditions, the FAA spaces out the arriving and departing flights more,” says US Airways spokeswoman Michelle Mohr. “That can cause delays.”

Mohr says another reason for delays is giving flight crews a rest. “If there are long delays, the crew might have reached the point where they are required to get a rest,” she says. That also can cause flight delays.

And visitors to Charlotte’s airport will have to deal with limited parking, with 4,000 fewer places than last year because of construction of a new parking deck. Airport officials say a good choice for parking is the Business Valet lot off Wilkinson Boulevard.

It might be best to get a ride to the airport, but if you’re planning to park, check www.charlotteairport.com or call 704-359-5555.

Airport officials also have opened a second cell phone lot, with 120 spaces. And they are stationing more traffic control officers in front of the terminal and in other locations, in an effort to keep traffic moving.

US Airways Travel Advisory ... Passengers planning to leave Tuesday or Wednesday for a number of destinations can change travel dates to Nov. 28-December 1 without penalty.

Those destinations are:

Albany, N.Y.

Allentown, Pa.

Baltimore

Bangor, Maine

Binghamton, N.Y.

Boston

Buffalo

Burlington, Vt.

Charleston, W.Va.

Elmira, N.Y.

Erie, Pa.

Halifax, Nova Scotia

Harrisburg, Pa.

Hartford, Conn.

Huntington, W.Va.

Islip, N.Y.

Ithaca, N.Y.

Manchester, N.H.

Montreal

Newark, N.J.

Newburgh, N.Y.

New Haven, Conn.

New York (LaGuardia and JFK)

Ottawa, Ontario

Philadelphia

Pittsburgh

Portland, Maine

Providence

Rochester, N.Y.

Quebec City, Quebec

Scranton, Pa.

State College, Pa.

Syracuse, N.Y.

Toronto

Washington (Reagan National and Dulles International).

White Plains, N.Y.

Williamsport, Pa.

Delta Airlines Travel Advisory: Passengers planning to fly to any of the destinations listed below on Wednesday can rebook anytime on or before Saturday.

Destinations are:

Baltimore

Boston

Hartford, Conn.

Newark, N.J.

Newburgh, N.Y.

New York City

Philadelphia

Providence

Washington (Reagan National)


Auto travel

Transportation departments in both Carolinas say they will suspend construction projects over the Thanksgiving holiday. One exception on the interstates is in Greensboro, where Interstate 73 will be reduced to two lanes in each direction between Interstate 40 and Interstate 85.


Gas prices

They dropped considerably between Labor Day and last week, then climbed 7 cents a gallon in the past several days. That left the average price in Charlotte at $3.30 a gallon, up 2 cents from last Thanksgiving.

Prices in the two states range from $3.11 in Greenville, S.C., to $3.37 in Asheville, according to AAA Carolinas. Check out prices nationwide at www.fuelgaugereport.com.

Here are some recent prices:

North Carolina: Asheville, $3.37; Boone, $3.26; Charlotte, $3.30; Durham, $3.24; Fayetteville, $3.17; Greensboro, $3.21; High Point, $3.20; Raleigh, $3.24; Rocky Mount, $3.25; Wilmington, $3.23; Winston-Salem, $3.20.

South Carolina: Charleston, $3.10; Columbia, $3.07; Greenville, $2.99; Myrtle Beach, $3.04; Spartanburg, $2.97.

Elsewhere: Atlanta, $3.26; Athens, $3.29; Baltimore, $3.38; Birmingham, $3.165; Charleston (W.Va.), $3.30; Hagerstown (Md.), $3.38; Jacksonville, $3.34; Knoxville, $3.10; Miami, $3.46; Mobile, $3.19; Nashville, $3.16; Norfolk, $3.24; Orlando, $3.40; Richmond, $3.19; Savannah, $3.38.


Police

Extra patrols and DWI checkpoints are planned for the Carolinas and the rest of the Southeast. And there is a special nationwide crackdown planned on I-40, from coast to coast. Look for heavy police patrols on that route.

But the N.C. Highway Patrol also has launched a “Click It or Ticket” campaign, aimed at getting motorists to use their seat belts over the holidays. “Wearing a seat belt during a crash redcues chances of suffering critical injuries by 50 percent,” says Don Nail, director of the Governor’s Highway Safety Program.


Weather

Rainy, windy weather will spread from the Carolinas on Tuesday up the East Coast on Wednesday. Snow, sleet and freezing rain are expected inland, from northwest North Carolina to New England. The good news: Dry conditions are expected for the return trip this weekend.

Accumulating snow is possible as close to major cities as the western suburbs of Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York City. Heavy snow is likely inland, in cities like Syracuse, N.Y.

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