Millions of people traveled into --and out of -- the tri-state area for Thanksgiving, and at area airports controversial new body scanners caused little disruption -- but for people catching flights to the Midwest, storms packed a punch.
A powerful storm system closed roads and delayed flights from Anchorage to Salt Lake City, and promised messy weather Thanksgiving Day in the Dakotas. Freezing rain glazed roads across the Midwest.( Mon Nov 22 05:15:36 PST 2010 $__output )
But the cascading delays and lines that many feared would result at airports from the so-called National Opt-Out Day didn't materialize Wednesday, among the busiest travel days of the year.
The loosely organized Internet campaign encouraged travelers to protest new security screening by opting for time-consuming pat-downs.( Fri Dec 17 06:23:11 PST 2010 $__output )
But one protester, who was protesting both the opt-out plans and the scanners, moved through LaGuardia Airport in just his underwear.
Jason Rockwood, of Hell's Kitchen, showed up for his flight to Chicago on Wednesday in just his skivvies and some shoes. "If I'm selected for a scan and I opt out," Rockwood told NBCNewYork. "It won't hold anybody up. It will be quick. The TSA is undignified and so are my clothes. We go together."
Meanwhile, the Transportation Security Administration said very few passengers opted out of the full body scans on Wednesday --one of the busiest travel days of the year.
At Newark International Airport, the majority of Newark’s full-body scanners were idle throughout much of the day, depriving most passengers of the chance to opt out, chosing, instead, the equally controversial pat-down method.
More than 40 million people plan to travel over the Thanksgiving holiday, according to the American Automobile Association, with more than 1.6 million flying -- a 3.5 percent increase from last year.
The Port Authority expects nearly 3.6 million travelers to use its airports, bridges, tunnels, and PATH system during the extended Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Authorities at Penn, Port Authority and Grand Central Stations are preparing for arguably the biggest crowd of luggage-wielding travelers they'll see all year.
"New York travelers are saavy," said LaGuardia Airport General Manager Tom Bosco. "They used to all fly out the day or two before the holiday. Now it's spread out over a week. And we've added staff to make it smoother."
While local air traffic is up this year over last, road traffic will be heavy, too. More than 40 million people are expected to hit the roads nationwide -- nearly a million in New Jersey alone, according to AAA. Thanks to an uptick in the economy, more people have jobs and are willing to pay higher gas prices -- $2.86, $3.14 and $3.15 per gallon in Jersey, New York and Connecticut, respectively, the agency says.
Given the expected 11 percent increase in Thanksgiving road travelers across the country, those in the tri-state area taking highways to their holiday destinations planned to leave early.
One Long Islander en route to Pittsburgh said he hoped to leave around 4:30 a.m., get off the Long Island Expressway and through Manhattan by about 5:30 a.m. When asked by NBCNewYork about his travel, he admitted he was already running half an hour behind that schedule.