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Thanksgiving rush off to slow start amid dense fog in Chicago

November 21, 2012|By Michael Muskal
  • Dense fog at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport led to cancellations and delays as the Thanksgiving travel rush got underway.
Dense fog at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport led to… (Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated…)

Dense fog around Chicago forced airline delays and cancellations Wednesday as inclement weather put a damper on one of the nation's busiest travel days at the start of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

More than 43.6 million Americans are expected to travel at least 50 miles between Wednesday and Sunday, according to the AAA. That is a barely discernible 0.7% increase from last year.

More people are driving and fewer are flying, the travel organization said, and the average distance traveled is about 120 miles less than a year ago.

All of that data implies that the economy -- recovering, but at a slow pace -- continues to suppress holiday traffic of all kinds.

The holiday weather is expected to be good across most of the nation, according to the National Weather Service. Forecasters said the Pacific Northwest, which has been hit by fierce storms over the last several days, will continue to see rain and snow. But even there, the rain is expected to lessen.

"Much of the country will enjoy tranquil weather heading into Thanksgiving, thanks to an area of high pressure over the eastern U.S.," the weather service said.

In the Pacific Northwest, it said, "conditions should begin improving across the region early Thursday, as the systems move east, bringing snow to the northern Plains."

As of Wednesday morning, the worst weather and the biggest delays at airports were in the Chicago area, where dense fog had rolled in.

As of mid-morning there, 158 flights had been canceled at O'Hare International Airport and 25 at Midway Airport, according to flightstats.com, which gathers data from airports and the Federal Aviation Administration. More than 300 flights were delayed at O'Hare and more than 200 at Midway.

Visibility was near zero during the morning, but the fog is expected to lift later in the day, forecasters said.

Throughout the year, airlines have been struggling to deal with rising costs, mainly for jet fuel. To save money, they have decreased the number of available flights, and fewer seats have helped push up fares.

Rising fuel prices are also hitting drivers, according to the AAA.

Earlier this week, it reported that the national average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline was $3.42.

"This price is two cents less expensive than one week ago and 28 cents less expensive than one month ago, however it is still five cents more expensive that one year ago,” the travel organization said.

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