2.5 million Illinoisans expected to travel over wet Thanksgiving weekend

CHICAGO (Sun-Times Media Wire) - Though the forecast calls for a rainy holiday, about 2.5 million Illinoisans are still expected to travel over the long Thanksgiving weekend.

The good news is Chicago won’t see any more record-breaking snow over the weekend–but the holiday is expected to be wet, with rain forecast over much of the area Thanksgiving Day and overnight into Friday, according to the National Weather Service. Some areas may get an inch and a half of rain.

Though it will be wet, most of the holiday weekend will be relatively warm. Wednesday will be mostly sunny with a high near 50 degrees, according to the weather service. The high Thursday will be a balmy 56 but breezy, which is warmer than normal for Thanksgiving, but not a record. The highest temperature recorded on Thanksgiving was 69 degrees on Nov. 24, 1966.

Black Friday will be colder with a high near 46, and Saturday will drop even more, with a high near 40 but mostly sunny. Sunday there is a slight chance of rain with temperatures hovering in the low 40s.

Despite the rainy forecast, AAA predicts that 2.5 million Illinoisans will travel between Wednesday and Sunday over the holiday weekend.

An estimated 2 million passengers will travel through O’Hare and Midway airports, an increase over last year, according to the city’s Department of Aviation. The busiest day at both airports will be Sunday, when 241,000 passengers are expected at O’Hare and more than 83,000 at Midway.

For those who choose to drive, there’s good news: Gas prices are expected to be the lowest for Thanksgiving in seven years, with an average price of $2.17 in Illinois. Many other areas, including northwest Indiana, will see prices below $2 a gallon.

“Our holiday gift has come early this year. Americans will likely pay the lowest Thanksgiving gas prices since 2008. Lower prices are helping boost disposable income, and enabling families to kick off the holiday season with a Thanksgiving getaway,” AAA spokeswoman Beth Mosher said in a statement.

The Illinois Tollway expects to see more than 8.5 million vehicles over the holiday weekend and will suspend work on most construction projects.

The Illinois Department of Transportation said that during last year’s Thanksgiving weekend, 15 people died in crashes on Illinois roads and 840 were injured. Of the 15 killed, five died in crashes where at least one driver had been drinking. Illinois State Police will be doing their best to combat drivers Wednesday night, one of the biggest party nights of the year.

For those that want to avoid the roads, Metra will offer a special $8 unlimited ride holiday ticket for use on both Thanksgiving and Black Friday.

Metra will also add early afternoon trains Wednesday for travelers who want to get home on Thanksgiving eve. On Thanksgiving day, trains will operate on Metra’s holiday schedule and will run on regular weekday service on Friday.

The BNSF line will also add more mid-morning inbound trains Friday to accommodate Black Friday shoppers.

The CTA will also run on its Sunday/holiday schedule on Thursday.

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