NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A record number of travelers hit the roads and took to the skies Wednesday for what had been expected to be one of the busiest travel days of the holiday season.
For the first time AAA predicts the number of people making a journey of 50 miles or more between Christmas and New Year’s will top 100 million, marking it the seventh consecutive year of growth.
Six million people were expected to fly around the country Wednesday.
LaGuardia Airport was busy Wednesday morning with travelers trying to make their way home for the holidays.
“It’s always levels of craziness,” one traveler said.
“We stood in that line over there that says ticketing — as you can see it says ‘Ticketing C’ — for the last 30 minutes and then after standing there for 30 minutes they told us we have to stand in this line for reticketing,” Ken Peoples told CBS2’s Brian Webb.
“There was a long line on the gate as I was pulling up,” another traveler said. “I was like, ‘Oh no, how long is this going to take?'”
“We thought we’d go today instead of tomorrow because I know tomorrow would be a nightmare,” traveler Robin Beach said.
“It’s kind of slow, but you figure it’s gonna be that way, it’s Christmas,” said Roderick Garr.
The holiday rush comes as severe thunderstorms and tornadoes threaten parts of the south and the Midwest.
Instead of snow, many along the eastern part of the country ended up being delayed by rounds of heavy rain and fog ahead of spring-like weather forecast for Christmas Day.
Many flights were delayed into LaGuardia Airport throughout hte day Wednesday due to low visibility, with delays continuing on into the afternoon.
Karen Lewis was looking for other travel options after her flight to Fort Lauderdale was cancelled earlier today.
“I’m actually pretty calm right now, I am trying to keep my cool,” Lewis told WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell. “Trying to figure out what to do next — obviously not a great feeling.”
LaGuardia is asking those traveling today to check with their airlines to see the status of their flights.
Adding to the inconvenience this year is tighter security in the wake of recent terror attacks.
The TSA will now be able to direct mandatory body scanner screening for some passengers, according to a Department of Homeland Security document obtained by CBS News. This means fewer passengers will be able to opt-out of what some critics have called a virtual strip search, Webb reported.
Meanwhile at Long Island MacArthur Airport, highly-trained K-9 units have been deployed for the busy travel week.
As WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall reported, the canines are called Vapor and Wake, and they’re specially trained, according to Suffolk County Deputy Executive Time Sini.
“What’s unique about these dogs is that they’re able to detect explosives from a farther distance. They went through incredible training,” he said.
Sini said it’s important to note there’s no credible threat to the airport and that the dogs are just a precautionary measure.
There is one bright spot for air travelers this year, AAA reports air fares are less expensive this year with the average round trip costing $174.
AAA said the cheapest gas in seven years is also prompting millions to hit the roads.
Travelers arriving at the northern end of the New Jersey Turnpike Wednesday morning said they saw gas as cheap as $1.75 on some roads in Virginia. It’s $1.99 at the Vince Lombardi rest stop on the turnpike.