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Thanksgiving travel forecast: Booming. What Southern Californians need to know

Expect roads and airports to be especially packed this Thanksgiving. Holiday travel is projected to be the second busiest on record for Southern California.

The AAA forecasts 4.4 million Southern Californians will be traveling for the holiday, up 16% from 2020 and just 3% shy of the record set in 2019, said Marie Montgomery, a spokeswoman with the automobile and travel group.

With more people vaccinated, many feel more comfortable traveling, Montgomery said. Not even the skyrocketing gas prices are expected to discourage many from hitting the road.

“We had a pandemic and people missed a lot of holidays,” she said. “They are anxious to get back to see families and loved ones.”

Expect roads and airports to be especially packed this Thanksgiving. Holiday travel is projected to be the second busiest on record for Southern California.

The AAA forecasts 4.4 million Southern Californians will be traveling for the holiday, up 16% from 2020 and just 3% shy of the record set in 2019, said Marie Montgomery, a spokeswoman with the automobile and travel group.

With more people vaccinated, many feel more comfortable traveling, Montgomery said. Not even the skyrocketing gas prices are expected to discourage many from hitting the road.

“We had a pandemic and people missed a lot of holidays,” she said. “They are anxious to get back to see families and loved ones.”

The high fuel costs may not keep people off the road. Some will likely try to cut other travel costs – packing their own food rather than eating out or shortening their trip to save hotel expenses.

She urged drivers to look for the cheapest gas prices nearby and avoid peak travel times. Tuesday and Wednesday – particularly Wednesday afternoon and evening – and Sunday will likely be the busiest, she said.

Drivers also should expect some windy weather. After a blustery Sunday and Monday, the region will get a break on Tuesday before gusty conditions return.

Starting Wednesday, Santa Ana winds will return to Ventura County with gusts up to 30 to 50 mph, said Ryan Kittell, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

Expect windy weather through Friday with peak conditions Wednesday afternoon through Thursday morning, he said. The gusts could make driving difficult, particularly through canyons and for those hauling tall trailers or RVs, and challenge outdoor dining.

The Santa Anas also will make things “very, very dry” by Thursday with humidity levels dropping into the single digits, Kittell said.

The National Weather Service has issued a fire weather watch for Wednesday through Friday. Kittell said the watch will likely be upgraded to a red-flag warning, triggered when conditions could cause wildfires to ignite easily and spread quickly.

That could mean preventative power outages from Southern California Edison. The shutoffs are designed to de-energize lines to prevent sparks caused by wind-blown debris and tree limbs striking power lines.

For more information about possible shutoffs, see https://www.sce.com/wildfire/psps or https://www.vcemergency.com/.

Cheri Carlson covers the environment for the Ventura County Star. Reach her at cheri.carlson@vcstar.com or 805-437-0260.

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