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Thanksgiving travels: The best time to get on the road

Check current traffic conditions

With Thanksgiving merely hours away, you have a lot on your mind: when to start prepping your family recipes, baking the pumpkin pies and when to get on the road to get to grandmother’s house.

But each hour of the day is not created equal, and as you and everybody else hits the road Wednesday – the busiest day of the of the long weekend – you should know when to expect to see the most traffic.

Driving I-90 & I-5

If you’re heading east on I-90 over the pass, expect stop and go traffic from about 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation. And before and after that travel window, traffic will still be moderate to heavy on I-90.

If you’re headed southbound on I-5 between Tacoma and Olympia Wednesday, expect stop and go traffic from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. Northbound traffic Wednesday is only expected to be highly congested between 6 and 7 a.m.

Driving over the Snoqualmie Pass is expected to be a little easier Thanksgiving day, but I-5 will still see lots of congestion. Typically, according to WSDOT, conditions are stop and go between Tacoma and Olympia in the morning and until 1 p.m.

Driving after Thanksgiving

By the time you’re ready to head home, expect congestion and stop and go traffic on the roads midday on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Weather on the roads

Rain isn’t expected to impact your shorter driving trips Wednesday and Thanksgiving Day. KING 5 meteorologist Rich Marriott said by later Wednesday and on Thanksgiving Day, we’ll be back into a pattern of morning clouds and afternoon sunshine.

Air Travel

If your trip takes you cross-country, there are potential weather delays you should be aware of. The FAA shows the overall picture for airports and air traffic. You can also check flights departing and arriving at Sea-Tac at their website.

For flights headed to the East Coast, or that are coming from that direction – a major ice storm could cause problems. Snow and ice are forecast for the Northeast as a storm that started on the West Coast last week gathers steam and powers east in time for Thanksgiving.

The National Weather Service warned that the storm would almost certainly upset holiday travel plans for those hoping to visit loved ones in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast.

“The timing of the storm couldn’t be worse,” said Chris Vaccaro, spokesman for the weather service headquarters in Silver Spring, Md. “We are seeing numerous threats as the storm is beginning to develop and intensify.”

Driving on Black Friday

But when it comes to starting your holiday shopping on Black Friday, there are peak congestion times to avoid. According to INRIX, if you’re trying to get to local malls, the peak of traffic congestion is 2 p.m. while 9 a.m. will likely be the least busy. They say traffic can be up to three times as busy as a typical Friday at the mall.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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