Winter weather awaits record number of holiday travelers in Pacific NW

Icy road conditions - KATU photo.jpg

AAA Oregon is expecting a record-breaking holiday travel season both in the Pacific Northwest and all across the country.

"This year, holiday travel is at record levels. When we did our study, we even said 'wow this is huge' because when you crunch the numbers nationwide we’re looking at 107 million Americans and almost 1.4 million Oregonians, so roughly one-third of the population is travelling for Christmas and new year’s, so we’ve never seen numbers like this before," said Marie Dodds of AAA Oregon.

All that traffic could combine with slick roads or even snow over the next several days around Oregon.

After last year's storm, some people have already made sure they won't be caught out in the cold.

"I’m well prepared, I have extra blankets, I have towels, I have an ice scraper and I have an emergency kit put together. I’m not going to go through last year again this year," said Deanna Podbielin of Fairview.

That sort of forethought is exactly what AAA Oregon suggests along with making sure your vehicle is ready to handle unexpected changes in road conditions.

"Human nature being what it is, all of us tend to wait until the last minute when you have snow or freezing rain in the forecast, but it’s really a good idea to have your chains and your snow tires in advance and know how to use them," Dodds said.

And it's not just important to remember supplies for the people in your travel party.

"Food and water for my husband and my dog and myself for three days," said Jen Thomason of Portland.

Another potential hazard for travelers is the handy GPS technology so many of us have come to rely on every day. Instead, experts suggest planning your route and alternate routes ahead of time, so that device doesn't send you down a dangerous road.

"Use common sense, don’t blindly follow your GPS. Unfortunately it seems every year in Oregon we have stories of folks who have followed their GPS and gotten into trouble, sometimes resulting in tragic consequences," said Dodds, who suggests turning around if your GPS directs you to a road that doesn't look well-maintained or well-traveled.

With many Oregonians already heading out into mostly clear conditions, it's also important to remember, your return trip may be quite a bit different.

"Weather conditions can change in a heartbeat, so you want to make sure that you’re ready for those winter road conditions," Dodds said.

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