Pre-Thanksgiving reunions resound throughout RDU
Posted November 24, 2021 5:36 a.m. EST
Updated November 24, 2021 5:18 p.m. EST
Morrisville, N.C. — Thousands of travelers reunited with loved ones Wednesday at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, on what was expected to be one of the busiest travel days in two years.
Planners expect Sunday to be the busiest single day at RDU, with around 44,000 people projected to travel through the airport.
RDU expects more than 230,000 travelers the entire week. That’s a 129% increase from last year’s 103,000. It’s still down 18% compared to before the pandemic in 2019 when 288,000 people traveled through RDU.
"Definitely more crowded traveling now than last year," said Emma Moore, who was arriving from New York City.
Scott Coldagelli was among those waiting to pick up family. Brian and Thilini Coldagelli flew in from Chicago. It was her first visit to Raleigh.
"It feels like a luxury when it shouldn't feel like one," she said.
The Langdons, also arriving from Chicago, were headed to visit family in Rocky Mount for the first time since the pandemic began.
Trinida Langon described "a tough two years." Last Thanksgiving, the family gathered on Zoom.
"I think being forced not to be together really makes you want to be together even more," she said.
Long lines were already stretching across Raleigh-Durham International at 4 a.m. Wednesday morning as Thanksgiving travelers waited to get through security. By 8 a.m., the lines were diminishing.
Check the status of your flight with the WRAL Flight Tracker before you leave, and arrive at the airport two hours early.
Even though the airport will be crowded, most people are driving for Thanksgiving -- 90% of travelers or 48.3 million Americans, according to Triple AAA, which is an increase of 8.4% from 2020.
The best times to travel the rest of the week include before 11 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday and before noon on Saturday and Sunday.
With more cars on the road comes the risk for more car crashes, many of which are caused by speeding. The Durham Police Department, along with other local law enforcement, will have additional patrol cars on the road to help prevent accidents.
One officer told WRAL News it's one thing to write tickets, but it's another to see serious crashes and notify families about traffic fatalities.
Kristen Kozar, an investigator on the Durham Police Department's traffic and collision team, told WRAL News about a Christmas Eve fatality last year she'll always remember and why she’s passionate about her work.
"It’s very difficult, especially going to give the death notification," she said. "It’s always hard to tell a loved one that their loved one has been killed in a motor vehicle collision. But even more so on the holidays, when they’re expecting to see that person."
Durham police officers will be looking for "careless and reckless driving, aggressive driving, following too closely and seatbelt violations."
"We just really want to make sure people are safe out there," Kozar said. "We’re not stopping people for going one or two miles over the speed limit. These are egregious speeds. We’ve seen people traveling over 100 mph."