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Avoid these times for July 4th holiday travel

By Chaffin Mitchell, AccuWeather staff writer
July 03, 2019, 1:24:16 AM EDT

Holiday Travel Florida

The combination of rush hour commuters and holiday travelers cause gridlock traffic in downtown Miami, Friday, July 1, 2016, on the Independence Day holiday weekend. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Many Americans are willing to travel hundreds of miles and sit in traffic to spend time with family and friends during the Fourth of July holiday. However, a planned travel itinerary could give you more time with loved ones instead of being stuck in traffic.

A record-breaking number of Americans, 48.9 million, are expected to travel for Independence Day in 2019, including a record 41.4 million people who will drive to their holiday getaways, AAA reports.

Overall travel volume for the holiday is expected to rise 4.1% over last year, with an additional 1.9 million people planning road trips and other vacations to celebrate America’s birthday.

“As Independence Day approaches, it’s time for the much loved family road trip, and this year will be one for the record books, with more Americans than ever planning vacations,” said Paula Twidale, vice president, AAA Travel. “This holiday builds on the strong travel demand seen for Memorial Day, and with schools now out of session across the country, families coast to coast are eager to travel.”

July 3 is expected to be the busiest day for people hitting the road, according to INRIX, a global mobility analytics company.

"On Wednesday, thunderstorms could disrupt ground and air travel from portions of eastern Texas northward into the Midwest. This could potentially impact major hubs such as Chicago O-Hare and Dallas Fort-Worth International," AccuWeather Meteorology Intern Alex DaSilva said.

The greatest coverage and intensity of thunderstorms is expected between 3 and 9 p.m. across this swath of the central United States. However, there could be storms before and after that time frame.

Even without inclement weather factored in, drivers could face delays as much as four times that of a normal commute as holiday travelers hit rush hour commute times, INRIX stated.


“With record-level travelers hitting the road this holiday, drivers must be prepared for delays around our major metros,” said Trevor Reed, transportation analyst at INRIX. “Although travel times are expected to nominally increase throughout the week, hands down, Wednesday afternoon will be the worst time to be on the road.”

Nationwide, delays are expected to increase by approximately 9%, and if bad weather strikes, delays could be even longer.

AccuWeather's forecast for travel conditions.

AccuWeather's forecast for travel conditions.

AccuWeather's forecast for travel conditions.

AccuWeather's forecast for travel conditions.

AccuWeather's forecast for travel conditions.

AccuWeather's forecast for travel conditions.

The greatest threat to traveling, outdoor gatherings and fireworks displays on July Fourth will be from mainly isolated thunderstorm activity.

Also, travelers should be prepared for any road closures due to holiday festivities, including around the nation's capital.

Hot and humid weather will fuel more thunderstorms across a large swath of the country from the Midwest to the Northeast on the Fourth of July, according to DaSilva.

"While the day won’t be a washout across these areas, a few afternoon thunderstorms may linger into the evening in some areas and impact firework celebrations," DaSilva said.

"Most of the western United States will be dry; however, a few thunderstorms can disrupt outdoor picnics and barbecues across Montana, Wyoming and Idaho," DaSilva said.

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Stormy weather could also pose threats for the trip home in many areas.

Friday will be another busy time for travel in some of the major metropolitan areas as travelers run into city commuters yet again.

"For those heading home on Friday after visiting friends and family, thunderstorms could impact travel across a large area extending from Montana and the Dakotas into much of the Great Lakes and Northeast," DaSilva said.

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