MILLIONS CRAM ROADS, AIR FOR U.S.THANKSGIVING / SUBDUED THANKS DAY FOR 'SANDY' VICTIMS
[PHOTO -Thanksgiving weekend travelers at Grand Rapids, Michigan's Gerald R. Ford Airport are delayed by fog, Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012. (AP Photo/The Grand Rapids Press, Chris Clark)]
YAHOO ONLINE, NOVEMBER 21, 2012 (REUTER BREAKING NEWS) Nearly 44 million Americans are hitting the road for the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday weekend, most by automobile, with some in Northeast states hard hit by Superstorm Sandy moving their feast to warmer, drier quarters.
Airports across most of the country faced few delays on Wednesday, but not Chicago, where thick fog reduced visibility forcing hundreds of flight delays at the city's two airports and the cancellation of more than 130 flights in the morning.
At early afternoon Chicago time, passengers flying in and out of O'Hare International Airport faced delays of about 40 minutes. Flights out of Midway had delays of about 45 minutes, according to FlightAware.com, an aviation information company.
In Canada, flights in and out of Winnipeg International were subject to delays of about 25 minutes, FlightAware said.
The "very dense fog" was expected to gradually ease in Chicago, while rain, wind and mountain snow were expected to impede travel in the Pacific Northwest on Wednesday, the National Weather Service said.
The weather service said the eastern third of the United States was expected to stay dry and pleasant for the holiday.
AAA expects 43.6 million people to travel 50 miles or more for the holiday, up about 0.7 percent from last year - and a fourth consecutive year of growth since the severe 2008 economic downturn cut travel on the holiday by 25 percent.
"We are on a slow climb back," AAA New York spokesman Robert Sinclair Jr. said on Wednesday in a telephone interview. "It's a climb, but it is a slow one, and perhaps not enough for people to really make a significant commitment to travel."
VIA Rail Canada is helping Amtrak meet the holiday crush of passengers after Sandy, which flooded several railroad equipment yards in New York and New Jersey. The storm hit New Jersey Transit particularly hard, damaging one-third of its locomotives and a quarter of its passenger cars.
SMALL DECLINE IN AIR TRAVEL
VIA Rail Canada is loaning Amtrak equipment on Wednesday - the U.S. passenger railroad's busiest day of the year with an expected 140,000 passengers, said Amtrak spokesman Steve Kulm.
The Sunday after Thanksgiving, Amtrak's second busiest day of the year, NJ Transit trains are expected to be in place to handle some of the spillover traffic for Amtrak, Kulm said.
AAA believes concessions to the economy can be seen in a 10 percent reduction in median spending to $498 per traveler and a drop in the distance traveled due in part to a projected decrease in air travel, Sinclair said.
About 90 percent of travelers, 39.1 million, are expected to go by automobile, while air travel is expected to decrease by about 100,000 to 3.14 million travelers, AAA said. About 1.3 million people are expected to travel by all other modes, including rail, bus and cruise ship, it said.
No cancellations or major delays were reported early Wednesday morning at Los Angeles International Airport, the nation's second busiest behind O'Hare in passenger volume.
"Everything is going more or less normally," airport spokesman Marshall Lowe told Reuters, adding that motor traffic around the sprawling facility was flowing at posted speed limits, without serious jams.
However, travelers venturing to LAX by car between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. were advised to give themselves an extra 90 minutes due to heavy congestion expected as a result of a protest planned by hundreds of union airport workers along one of the main roads leading to the airport.
Nearly 1.8 million passengers were expected to pass through LAX in the holiday travel period from Wednesdays through November 26, a slight increase over last year.
In Chicago, nearly 1.8 million passengers were expected to pass through O'Hare and Midway airports from Tuesday to Tuesday of next week, the city aviation department said.
(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg, David Bailey, Steve Gorman and James B. Kelleher; Editing by Todd Eastham)
Sandy victims gather with friends, strangers for subdued Thanksgiving By: Meghan Barr, The Associated Press
In this Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012 photo, Ray Marten poses with the street number sign recovered from the ashes of his fire-destroyed home in the Belle Harbor section of the Queens borough of New York. Marten is thankful that his teenage children are alive. The three of them narrowly escaped a fire that swept through their community the night Superstorm Sandy slammed into the East Coast. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)]
NEW YORK, N.Y. - The things that Marge Gatti once cherished are lying on what's left of her deck, spattered in mud, like a yard sale gone awry.
The white fur coat she bought for $80 at an auction. Family videos. A peach-colored glass creamer from England. Books she never got a chance to read.
The stuff is ruined, just like her sodden Staten Island home, which was ravaged by Superstorm Sandy's floodwaters and will be demolished in the coming weeks. Of all things material, Gatti has nothing.
And yet, on Thanksgiving Day, she will be counting her blessings.
"My sons are alive. They were trapped here," said Gatti, 67, who lived in the beige home down the block from the Atlantic Ocean for 32 years. "I'm thankful that I have all my family. And that my friends are still here, you know? We're all friends now. There's no strangers in life anymore."
It will be a subdued Thanksgiving for families hit hard by the storm as they gather with friends and strangers alike, seeking to celebrate the people and things that were spared when so much was lost. But they will not be left to fend for themselves.
Restaurants are donating meals, strangers and churches are opening their doors, and people from across the nation have sent an outpouring of donations for those unable to roast their own turkey.
New York City and Macy's have set aside 5,000 bleacher seats along the Thanksgiving Day Parade route for families affected by Superstorm Sandy. Occupy Sandy, the storm-relief offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street movement, will host a Thanksgiving dinner in lower Manhattan.
Jennifer Kaufman of Washington Township, N.J., started a Facebook page called "A Place at the Table" that matches willing Thanksgiving hosts with families who have been displaced by Sandy.
"No one should eat alone on Thanksgiving," Kaufman said.
In the Belle Harbor section of the Rockaways, Ray Marten is thankful his two teenage children are alive. At the height of the storm, he saw flames from burning homes dancing over the floodwaters. The three of them narrowly escaped just before the blaze engulfed their house. A neighbour in a scuba suit materialized out of the darkness and towed Marten's 13-year-old daughter to safety on a surfboard.
A restaurant in New Jersey is donating a catered Thanksgiving dinner for his family and other displaced relatives at his mother's overcrowded Brooklyn home, where they are staying. His wife's sister lost her home in the post-storm fire that destroyed more than 100 houses in the city's Breezy Point section.
"We won't be sitting at a dining room table. We'll be eating off of paper plates," said his wife, Linda. "But at least we'll be together."
The kitchen stove is still caked in mud at the mildewed Staten Island home of Amin and Rachael Alhadad, who have been running a borrowed generator for a few hours every night to keep themselves and their four children warm. In the living room, a dark line marks where the water rose almost to the ceiling. Their furniture consists of a couple of donated wicker chairs and a bench draped with Red Cross blankets and towels.
The Alhadads say they have nowhere else to go, no family or friends to rely on. And they refuse to live in a shelter.
"They keep asking, 'Are we going to have turkey?'" said Rachael Alhadad, indicating her sons, ages 14 and 15, who were playing restlessly on their smartphones. "Nope. We can't."
For Marge Gatti, who has blisters on her lips brought on by anxiety, the kindness of strangers has been almost too much to handle. There was the Australian man who raised $35,000 and handed out gift packages on the street from a U-Haul truck. An elderly rich man pulled up in a black Mercedes and peeled off $100 bills for everybody on the block. Dozens of girls cleaned debris off her front lawn.
"The caring was really from here," she said, putting a hand over her heart.
Her younger son has invited the entire block over for Thanksgiving dinner at his house. But the Gatti family will not be completely reunited for the holiday. Her oldest son, Anthony, has been sleeping in a tent that he pitched among the ruins on the front lawn of the house where he grew up.
"I'm going to stay here and protect what we have left," he said, his eyes filling with tears. "Which isn't much. But it's still ours."
Associated Press writers Karen Matthews in New York and Katie Zezima in Newark, N.J., contributed to this report.
Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi
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