Thanksgiving travel expected to be heaviest since 2007
CHICAGO (AP) — Elizabeth Thompson can't wait to leave the big city behind and decompress over the Thanksgiving holiday at her grandmother's house in rural south-central Indiana. But first she has to get there.
On Wednesday, Thompson, 23, missed her Amtrak train from Chicago to Galesburg, Illinois, where she'd planned to catch a ride with a family member the rest of the way to Edinburgh, Indiana.
"It's just where we go to unplug and escape," said Thompson, who had to decide whether to wait several hours for the next train or hop on a bus and get going.
Americans took to the roads, air and railways Wednesday for what is expected to be the busiest Thanksgiving travel period in almost a decade. Almost 49 million people are expected to travel 50 miles or more between Wednesday and Sunday, the most since 2007, because of lower gas prices and an improving economy, according to AAA.
And while they look forward to eating turkey and watching football, many are ready to abandon another, more recent, American pastime: rehashing the rancorous election between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton.
"My mother specifically said, 'We're not going to talk about it,'" for her grandmother's sake, Thompson said. Although nobody in her family supported President-elect Trump, "my grandmother is sick of hearing about it."
Sitting on their suitcases at a departure lounge at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, a major travel hub, Sharyn Ioffe and her brother Saul Ioffe said there's a good chance politics will intervene this Thanksgiving when they arrive home in New York.
"I'm pretty anxious about it," said Sharyn Ioffe, 27, who supported Clinton, though others in her family sided with Trump. "I'm still very emotional about the election. I know you have to try and understand the other side. But I'm not there yet."
Saul Ioffe, 20, said he is expecting some heated exchanges.
"I'm battening down the hatches," he said.
Lines of cars, taxi cabs and buses dropping travelers off and picking others up at O'Hare terminals grew longer by early evening. Crowds grew steadily inside, too, as travelers pulled suitcases into departure terminals decked out with giants wreathes. A light, cold rain fell outside, but most flights as of evening were listed on big boards as "on time."
The Chicago Department of Aviation said on its website that delays were averaging 15 minutes.
The weather appeared to be cooperating for the most part, with no significant issues in the majority of the country, the National Weather Service said.
The National Weather Service issued winter weather advisories for parts of northern Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan as well as western and central Montana and central Idaho, New York and Pennsylvania for Wednesday night. A winter storm warning was in effect for parts of northwest Washington state, with heavy snow expected through Thanksgiving Day.
AP reporters Michael Tarm in Chicago, Karen Matthews in New York, Matthew Brown in Billings, Montana, and Maryclaire Dale in Philadelphia contributed to this report.