If the roads or airports seem more crowded than normal, that might be because 53.4 million people were expected to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday, according to AAA’s annual travel forecast.
Since 6.4 million more people will be traveling this year, travelers should be extra prepared for what might come their way. Here is a running list of traffic, weather, gas prices, and airport conditions you might encounter this holiday weekend.
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Check back with azcentral.com through the weekend for updates.
Traffic around Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport was backed up Wednesday night.
About 9 p.m., the Arizona Department of Transportation advised anyone trying to reach the airport to allot extra time to do so due to traffic.
Sky Harbor on Wednesday morning warned travelers that travel volume was expected to be heavy from 6 to 11 p.m. and that people should use the Sky Train at 44th Street instead of driving.
People also can check security wait times at https://www.skyharbor.com. As of 9:20 p.m., all waits were under 10 minutes.
— Kaila White
A crash involving multiple vehicles blocked several lanes of Interstate 17 northbound near Thomas Road in Phoenix, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation.
Traffic was very slow in the area. It was not immediately known if anyone was injured or what may have caused the crash, according to the Arizona Department of Public Safety.
— Kaila White
By 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, traffic in both directions on Interstate 10 south of Phoenix was backed up at varying speeds for at least 20 miles.
“Expect lengthy delays in both directions of I-10 South of the Phoenix as holiday travelers hit the road,” the Arizona Department of Transportation said in a Twitter post.
A crash on U.S. 60 east of Quartzsite at about 2:30 p.m. Wednesday closed both directions of the freeway for about 20 miles, according to the Arizona Department of Public Safety.
The highway reopened at 6:40 p.m., according to the Arizona Department of Transportation.
US 60 remains closed near Vicksburg (Quartzsite area) due to a crash. The westbound I-10 off-ramp to US 60 is also closed. There’s no estimated time to reopen the road.
— Arizona DOT (@ArizonaDOT) November 24, 2021
— Athena Ankrah
Wood burning in residential fireplaces, chimneys, outdoor fire pits and similar outdoor fires is prohibited in Maricopa County this Thanksgiving due to elevated levels of smoke in the air, according to a release issued by the Maricopa County Air Quality Department on Wednesday.
“This includes individuals and businesses which have burn permits for open burning,” the county notes.
If you plan to roast anything over a fire this Thanksgiving, the county asks you to change plans and reduce harm to its air quality. Further restrictions include the use of leaf blowers and off-road vehicles.
The county asks residents to avoid waiting in long lines in the car Thursday, as this can contribute to poor air quality. Instead, park the vehicle and go inside.
— Athena Ankrah
On the Wednesday before every Thanksgiving, highways to the High Country become particularly busy late in the afternoon and into the evening, according to ADOT spokesperson Doug Nintzel.
With the addition of holiday travelers, heavier traffic is also expected on the following highways: northbound Interstate 17 north of Phoenix, State Route 87 to Payson, and eastbound Interstate 10 between Phoenix and California, Nintzel said.
Figuring out how much time to set aside for travel might be a little more difficult since disabled vehicles or crashes along certain routes occur without warning.
“All it takes is a fender bender to cause significant delays on northbound I-17 heading out of the Valley,” Nintzel said.
But Nintzel recommends drivers set aside at least an hour in addition to staying up-to-date on highway conditions.
“You need to expect the unexpected and not be in a hurry to get to your destination. Speeding and bad driving maneuvers like tailgating or unsafe lane changes or passing without enough room can and do lead to tragedies,” Nintzel said.
According to Nintzel, there is still time to be a prepared driver.
“Check your tire pressure, engine fluid levels as well as belts and hoses. Pack some extra items like drinking water, snacks, a flashlight, cellphone charger and other items that will help in case you encounter an unscheduled closure along a highway.”
— Amaris Encinas
Because Wednesday is the busiest travel day before the holiday, travelers who are flying should give themselves extra time to arrive at the airport, according to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport spokesperson Heather Shelbrack.
If travelers are flying domestically, then they should give themselves at least two hours and one extra hour if they are flying internationally, Shelbrack said.
Shelbrack also recommends drivers picking up or dropping off travelers use the 44th Street Sky Train station to help as a way to avoid roadway traffic and congestion at the terminal curb. Roadways will be especially busy between 6 and 11 p.m. Wednesday, she said.
As of 11:40 a.m., security wait times at Terminal 3 are about 10 minutes and between 5 to 10 minutes at Terminal 4, according to the Sky Harbor website.
- Travelers should check their bags for prohibited items before arriving at the airport. The Transportation Security Administration’s website has additional information about what can and can’t be brought in your carry-on bag.
- Travelers and drivers picking up travelers should check the flight status before coming to the airport.
- A facial covering over the nose and mouth is still required in the airport due to the federal mask mandate in effect.
— Amaris Encinas
As cloudiness decreases, Arizona is set to stay fairly sunny through Thanksgiving, according to National Weather Service meteorologist James Sawtelle in Phoenix.
Most of Wednesday’s sunniness will occur mid to late afternoon with a high of 75 degrees. Winds will become breezier in south-central Arizona after 8 to 9 p.m. on Wednesday, the weather service in Phoenix tweeted.
Thursday will also be sunny, but with a little bit more breeze. The high for Thursday is 76 degrees, Sawtelle said.
Because locally windy conditions are expected along the lower portion of the Colorado River area on Wednesday, the weather service in Phoenix recommends drivers to keep an eye out because the strong winds and blowing dust may create difficult driving conditions and create drops in visibility, the tweet stated.
If you are traveling for Thanksgiving and want to know the forecast for your travel destination, you can visit The National Weather Service’s website.
— Amaris Encinas