Long lines at RDU, heavy traffic as Thanksgiving travel rush begins

DeJuan Hoggard Image
Wednesday, November 24, 2021
RDU packed as holiday travel rush begins
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The airport was seeing a high number of travelers for this Thanksgiving holiday, a year after the pandemic halted much holiday travel.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Long lines formed Wednesday morning at Raleigh Durham International Airport.

As experts predicted, Wednesday morning at the airport looked like a scene from before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic--minus the throngs of people wearing masks, of course.

WATCH: Time-lapse video shows massive lines at RDU at 5 a.m. Wednesday

Lines at the terminal between check-in and security, wrapped around the inside of the building multiple times. Fortunately, the line appeared to be moving swiftly. After the morning rush, lines went back to normal lengths.

RDU Airport Authority said 234,000 people are expected to make their way through both terminals this week, with the Sunday after Thanksgiving being the busiest travel day.

SEE ALSO | Pandemic holiday travel 2.0: How to navigate Thanksgiving this year

Parking lots at RDU are also expected to be at or near capacity before the end of Wednesday.

Meanwhile, roads in and around central North Carolina will also see a surge of travelers.

"Usually, it's just normal people traveling to see family and normal congestion. I know that during the construction right here between here and 95 there's usually, every day of the week, there's traffic but it's nothing that we're not used to," traveler Brandon Watson told ABC11.

Raleigh police said they are partnering with the North Carolina State Highway Patrol this holiday season on speed-reduction projects on interstates and major thoroughfares in Raleigh and the surrounding areas. They're asking everyone to slow down and obey speed limits, so everyone can get where they want to go safely.

"I'm here every other week on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, I'm driving this route, and this is the busiest I've seen it in the past two years I would say," another traveler, John Hodge, told ABC11.

AAA predicts 48.3 million Americans will travel on the roads this Thanksgiving holiday season and 1.4 million North Carolinians will travel by car for Thanksgiving. That's up 9% from last year.

AAA suggests drivers travel after 9 p.m. Wednesday or before 11 a.m. Thursday if they want to try and avoid the worst of the traffic. From Friday-Sunday, the group suggests leaving as early as possible.

Garner resident Daren Roy is one of the many North Carolina residents expected to hit the road this weekend.

"We're going to go down to South Carolina, visit with her family, probably stop in Fayetteville and visit with my family a little bit and then maybe do some Black Friday shopping," Roy said.

Sam and Kate Clark are heading to Myrtle Beach this weekend.

"We're doing the oil change. We're getting air in the tires, kind of expecting just another day on the road kind of thing," Sam Clark said. "We're traveling on Friday, so hopefully more people are going to be heading into the mall area and not necessarily the beach."

AAA said gas prices in North Carolina are the highest for a Thanksgiving since the Obama Administration in 2013.

Gas is up more than $1.25 per gallon from last year during President Donald Trump's final months in office.

"That's disappointing," Kate Clark said. "But, I mean, it is what it is."

SEE ALSO | RDU raises parking prices ahead of busy holiday travel season