With Las Vegas among the top destinations for Thanksgiving travel, a projected weather system moving into Southern Nevada will likely make travel to the area more treacherous.
Heavy Thanksgiving traffic is expected on area roads beginning Wednesday — coinciding with a winter weather system — and lasting through Sunday, according to the Nevada Department of Transportation.
A projected 300,000 visitors are expected to travel to Las Vegas during the holiday, with at least 60 percent of those — or 180,000 – driving.
“We anticipate heavy traffic during the holiday weekend, especially along the Interstate 15 and resort corridor,” said Tony Illia, NDOT spokesman. “As such, motorists should budget additional travel time to reach their destination while remaining alert to impaired drivers.”
Las Vegas ranks as the fourth-most-popular Thanksgiving destination in the U.S., up one spot from last year, according to AAA Nevada.
The heaviest travel day is expected on Wednesday, as people make their way to town ahead of Thanksgiving. A weather system moving into the area that day could wreak havoc.
Up to a half-inch of rain is possible in the valley between Wednesday and Friday, with snow affecting motorists coming from Southern California and Northern Nevada, according to Chris Outler, National Weather Service meteorologist.
“We have a pretty healthy weather system that will be making its way into the area, so we’re expecting some widespread travel impacts,” Outler said. “There could be some mountain snow, especially on Interstate 15 near Mountain Pass, that’s between Baker, California, and Primm. If you’re traveling up north near Reno, Ely or Elko there will be snow along those routes as well.”
Snow flurries in the valley
No snow was expected to accumulate in the Las Vegas Valley, but flurries weren’t out of the question.
For motorists traveling between Las Vegas and Pahrump, Mountain Springs is expected to get up to a foot of snow.
“That’s another trouble spot for the upcoming travel week,” Outler said.
Mount Charleston and Lee Canyon are expected to get a heavy dusting this week, Outler said.
“That whole route up to the mountain will be above that snow level, so as you get up toward Mount Charleston and Lee Canyon and Kyle Canyon we’re expecting anywhere between 1 to 2 feet of snow and possibly even more than that,” he said.
Motorists are urged to be extra cautious while driving in winter weather conditions, especially if they aren’t accustomed to such conditions.
“On average, more than 2,000 crashes occur statewide every year due to unsafe driving in snow, ice and other wet conditions, such as driving too fast for conditions, following too closely, or failing to maintain a lane and over-correcting,” Illia said. “In winter weather, motorists are reminded to drive slowly for conditions and leave space between their vehicle and others. Wearing a seat belt and focusing on the road are other important driving tips for any type of weather.”
Travelers going through McCarran International Airport could see delays, according to spokesman Joe Rajchel.
The airport didn’t have an estimate for the number of passengers expected to pass through McCarran this week, but with Clark County School District students off all week, coupled with an increased number of incoming passengers and the inclement weather, chances for disruptions are good.
“There is always the chance for delays due to weather. With delays, though, it is relative to the individual passenger and where they are traveling,” Rajchel said. “If they are headed to a location with inclement weather, they could see a delay. We would recommend passengers monitor the status of their flight — which can be done at www.mccarran.com — or check with their airline if they have any concerns.”
With periods of low clouds and wind also expected, there’s a good likelihood of at least some delays and even some isolated cancellations this holiday weekend, Outler said.
Roadside assistance increase
An influx of motorists can mean a spike in drivers experiencing car trouble in the area.
AAA Nevada projects that between Wednesday and Sunday an estimated 3,000 members will make a call for roadside assistance. The top reasons for calls for service include dead batteries, flat tires and vehicle lockouts, AAA said.
Nationwide, more than 368,000 motorists will call AAA for assistance at the roadside this Thanksgiving holiday.
AAA recommends motorists take their vehicles to a trusted repair shop to perform any needed maintenance before heading out on a road trip. Drivers are also asked to slow down and move over for stopped emergency vehicles at the roadside.
“All those extra vehicles on the roads can make them more dangerous. Drive carefully to make it to your destination safely and don’t forget your emergency kit just in case,“ said Sergio Avila, AAA spokesman.