Holiday travelers hit the road as storms loom

Westbound traffic faces delays toward the Tappan Zee Westbound traffic faces delays toward the Tappan Zee Bridge on I-87 in Tarrytown. (Nov. 25, 2012) Photo Credit: Faye Murman

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Hudson Valley travelers took to the roads, rails and skies for holiday jaunts Monday amid a dip in gasoline prices and just before two rounds of stormy weather blows through the region.

The National Weather Service issued a winter-weather advisory for northern Westchester, Orange, Putnam and Rockland counties effective through 7 a.m. Tuesday. Though the precipitation will clear on Christmas Day, another round of foul weather -- this one qualifying as a nor'easter -- is expected to hit the region Wednesday.

"The forecast is for light rain and snow showers starting around 6 or 7 p.m. [Monday]," said Mike Layer, a National Weather Service meteorologist. "The farther north you go, the more likely it will be all snow."

The wintry mix will make roads treacherous, Layer warned, with snowfall accumulations up to an inch, but less in southern Westchester County.

"Roads could be pretty slick, especially later on," he said. "Toward the end of the storm, we'll see freezing drizzle, especially in northern Westchester."

Clouds will hover Tuesday, with highs around 40, but Wednesday is expected to bring winds and driving rain or snow, though more precise details about the storm "are still being ironed out," Layer said.

Many area residents slipped away before the storm, joining an estimated 93.3 million Americans taking a year-end journey of at least 50 miles, according to a new study. Nine out of 10 travelers nationwide -- or 84.4 million people -- will be driving, according to the AAA 2012/2013 Year-End Holidays Travel Forecast, and median spending is expected to climb $41 versus 2011 to $759, with transportation costs accounting for 29 percent of that total.

In New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the number of air travelers is expected to jump by 4.8 percent versus the 2011 holiday period.

No delays were reported at Westchester County Airport in Harrison, Stewart International Airport in Newburgh or at the region's major hubs, LaGuardia, Kennedy and Newark Liberty.

The number of travelers in those three states overall is projected to rise 1.9 percent to 10.47 million, or more than one person out of four, and 60 percent of travelers will be sharing a family holiday, the most of any region in the country.

Easing the burden for motorists, gasoline prices have been falling in recent weeks.

In Yonkers, the lowest price for regular Monday was $3.59, and in Poughkeepsie it was $3.63, the online gasoline price tracker Gasbuddy.com reported.

The latest Lundberg survey found that gasoline prices nationwide have dropped almost 12 cents in the past two weeks, but Lundberg analysts said prices could bounce 5-10 cents higher as crude oil prices rise.

Metro-North Railroad was operating on a special holiday timetable effective Dec. 24-25 and Dec. 31-Jan. 1. Details are available online at mta.info/mnr/. The commuter line reported good service across the board.

Likewise, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the parent of Metro-North, reported smooth service on New York City subways.

No major service disruptions were reported by Amtrak along the Northeast.

On the roads, traffic was moving freely on the Tappan Zee Bridge, but it was slow going on the George Washington Bridge as of Monday afternoon, according the state Department of Transportation's 511NY.org website.

State Police said they would be monitoring the highways for drunken drivers.

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