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Weather may cause holiday travel trouble

A snowy getaway
A flight prepares to deplane during a 2018 snowstorm.

POCATELLO, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - The weeks around Thanksgiving are always among the busiest for the travel. In fact, a record 31.6 million Americans are expected to take flight over that period (Nov. 22 - Dec. 3) this year. But there’s one thing that could be standing in the way of many in the area. As you might have guessed, it’s the weather.

A “large-scale storm system” is headed through the region, expected to produce some significant precipitation and, in turn, delay or cancel some flights.

“We’re thinking the biggest impact day for travel is going to be Wednesday,” Kevin Smith, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Pocatello, said. “Maybe some impacts into Thursday, Friday, but Wednesday is our key day.”

On what’s generally one of the busiest travel days of the year, things could be slowing down significantly. In this case, actual travel speeds. With a forecast that could only make a skier happy, travelers around the country are preparing.

“Definitely, today’s the day,” flyer Garrett Johnson said.

On Tuesday, those like Johnson who were traveling home for the holiday felt quite lucky, knowing what may be coming Wednesday.

“I heard it’s pretty bad, so it’s a good thing. I’m from California, obviously, so I’m not really used to aggressive snow like that,” he said. “So it’s a good thing I’m getting out of here when I can.”

The Pocatello Regional Airport only offers three daily flights: one at 6 a.m., one at noon, and one at 6 p.m. All three come in from Salt Lake City and all three fly to Salt Lake City, an area that’s expected to be majorly impacted Wednesday.

“It’s important to remember that although our aircraft come direct from Salt Lake, they usually come from somewhere else before they get to Salt Lake,” airport management assistant Kristy Heinz explained. “So, something that happens in another airport in a different part of the country can affect our flights.”

If your flight is delayed or canceled, you’re not going to want to pull a Tom Hanks and camp out in the Pocatello terminal.

“The airport here in Pocatello, unlike some of the larger airports, is not open 24 hours,” Heinz said. “So it can be an issue if someone happens to think they might be able to stay here overnight.”

While they can’t focus on what happens at other airports, Heinz said the Pocatello staff is prepared for the weather and ready to take action.

“We have deicing material if it ices over, and then they will spend as long as they need to out here plowing so that we can make sure and get passengers where they need to go.”

The airport already saw one weather-related delay Tuesday -- the noon flight was about an hour late.

According to Smith, accumulations are expected to begin before daybreak Wednesday. He says it’s likely that snowfall will lower visibility, which may begin to cause flight delays.

In terms of road travel, Smith says the best course of action is to just slow down.

Heinz reminds holiday travelers that if the airport’s main lot is full, there are two additional lots. She says you can ask an employee to direct you if you are not sure where to go.

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