Sandy arrived and left well in advance of Thanksgiving, but the mess she left behind is likely to impact holiday travel plans for residents both locally and throughout the Mid-Atlantic.
AAA Mid-Atlantic, in its projections for holiday travel, estimates more than 48,000 travelers from the Wilkes-Barre area will travel 50 miles or more away from home over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. That‚??s only a 0.3 percent increase over last year. However, travel in the region could drop below 2011 levels as the impact of Hurricane Sandy continues to be felt throughout the region.
‚??It is too early to tell the full impact of Sandy for local Thanksgiving travel,‚?Ě said Jenny M. Robinson, a AAA Mid-Atlantic spokeswoman. ‚??But many area travelers are affected by the storm, or have family and friends who are impacted, and are still figuring how to celebrate the holiday ‚?Ľ . Some folks are busy cleaning up storm damage, or trying to restock their kitchens after having to throw out spoiled food.‚?Ě
The Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday to Sunday. It should be noted, Robinson said, that the holiday travel forecast is based on travelers‚?? intentions and historical data as of late October, just prior to the so-called superstorm hitting the Mid-Atlantic region.
While many local residents are not likely to have holiday travel plans impacted by Sandy, those with relatives in New York or New Jersey who might typically head to those states for the Thanksgiving holiday, could see that tradition halted this year.
Traditionally the busiest travel day will be Wednesday, with 45 percent of those surveyed saying they‚??ll depart for their destination then. Another 18 percent will head out on Thanksgiving Day itself. Thirty-two percent get a head start and plan to leave either today or Tuesday.
For the trip home, 36 percent of those asked said they‚??ll return on Sunday, though 25 percent are extending the holiday another day and coming home Monday. Ten percent are coming back home on Thanksgiving.
Of the 48,120 Greater Wilkes-Barre area residents who said they‚??ll be traveling, 84 percent will be doing so by vehicle. Eight percent, or 3,881 people, said they‚??ll fly to their destination. That‚??s a two percent decline from the 2011 survey.
Nationally, AAA projects 43.6 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, an increase of 0.7 percent over the 43.3 million people who traveled last year. This increase marks the fourth consecutive year of growing holiday travelers. The last decline occurred in 2008 when Thanksgiving travel fell by 25 percent.
At $3.60, the average price of gas locally is 25 cents higher now than at this time last year. That will factor in to travel plans this year, Robinson said.
Despite the historically high fuel prices this year, the national average has dropped by nearly 40 cents a gallon since early October and should continue to drop through the end of the year, AAA notes.