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Rain and snow slow travel as millions of Americans hit the road for Thanksgiving

November 27, 2013 at 12:00 AM EST
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GWEN IFILL: A major winter storm system slammed into the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast today, just as millions of Americans hit the roads, rails and skies for the Thanksgiving holiday.

A dismal mix of rain, snow, wind, and sleet greeted holiday travelers, who braved long airport lines, heavy traffic and dangerous road conditions on one of the busiest travel days of the year.

CHRIS ZONA, traveler: I just lost control and hit the side of the bridge, and I guess I spun, and landed over there.

GWEN IFILL: North of Pittsburgh, this man managed to escape with minor injuries after flipping his car.

And up and down the East Coast, the wintry mix led vehicles to spin out and drivers to throttle back.

WOMAN: Yes, I usually try to slow down a little bit and — even though I have a lead foot.

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ROB POLLARD, traveler: Definitely the speed limit, a little bit up under. And check your tires. You know, that’s very important on the road.

GWEN IFILL: Some 39 million drivers are expected to hit the road over the long holiday weekend.

But for those taking to the skies, about 200 flights were canceled earlier today, mostly in the busy Northeast hubs of Newark, Philadelphia, and New York’s La Guardia. While there were many weather-related delays, overall, the situation wasn’t as bad as once feared.

At Washington’s Reagan International Airport, passengers were trying to stay positive.

MICHAEL KENNEDY, traveler: I keep hearing that everything is going to be delayed, so I tried to get on an earlier flight. Now they’re saying that flight is full, so I might be stuck here for a while. I don’t know.

(LAUGHTER)

THOMAS WALKER, traveler: So, we arrived two hours early for our flight because we were concerned about weather delays. And we do, in fact, have weather delays. Hopefully, we will get out under a three-hour range.

GWEN IFILL: It was a busy day at nearby Union Station, too…

MAN: Ladies and gentlemen, we have a very full train this afternoon.

GWEN IFILL: … where train passengers said they were glad they’d avoided the roads.

KATE EPTING, traveler: Could be on a bus, so I’m thinking this is better than being on a bus.

GWEN IFILL: The National Weather Service says more than a foot of snow could still fall in Western Pennsylvania, New York and Vermont before lifting tomorrow.

But, in many areas, the storm’s expected to clear out as temperatures fall through the evening. That may be too late for Macy’s annual Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. Dancers donned ponchos in Herald Square, practicing their routines in the rain. But high winds are threatening to take the air out of the larger-than-life balloons that parade down Broadway for the first time in more than 40 years; characters like Snoopy and SpongeBob SquarePants might be grounded. Officials plan to make that call early tomorrow.