By LISA M. HOFFMANN
IRON MOUNTAIN - Expect roadways to be busy the day before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after the national holiday.
Travel was heavy on Friday in Wisconsin as deer hunters flocked to the northwoods and will be heavy again on Wednesday when motorists travel to join family and friends for the Thanksgiving holiday.
Wisconsin Department of Transportation officials said the heaviest traffic day on major highways is expected to be Sunday, Nov. 25 when deer hunters and holiday travelers converge to make the return trip home.
AAA Michigan says the number of state residents traveling this Thanksgiving is expected to increase about 7 percent from a year ago.
The auto club released its annual Thanksgiving forecast. It says 1.34 million Michigan residents will travel 50 miles or more from home during the holiday period, which runs Nov. 21-25.
AAA says 89 percent of Michigan travelers will go by vehicle, down from last year's 90 percent. In Michigan, 8 percent will go by air, on par with last year, while the remaining 3 percent will go by train or bus.
The forecast comes as AAA predicts 43.6 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles from home over Thanksgiving, up 0.7 percent from last year.
In anticipation of heavy holiday traffic, which could cause sudden and unexpected back-ups, WisDOT officials advise drivers to slow down, pay attention and be patient.
As always, do not drink and drive, and buckle up.
WisDOT adds that deer hunters and holiday travelers will encounter fewer orange barrels on major highways.
Although most major road construction projects have concluded for the year, drivers traveling during the Thanksgiving holiday may encounter some ongoing work and should be prepared for orange barrels, lane shifts, and reduced speeds.
"Because of the extraordinary road construction season this year, we've been able to wrap up the majority of projects before Thanksgiving," said Don Greuel of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation's (WisDOT) Project Services Section. "There no longer are detours on major highways for construction projects, but there are a few spots where lane restrictions are still in place."
Motorists also should be prepared for inclement weather. Before venturing out, check current road conditions online at 511wi.gov or by calling 511 from a phone.
Last year, five people died in traffic crashes in Wisconsin during the Thanksgiving holiday period, which runs from 6 p.m. on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving to midnight on the following Sunday.
"Traffic crashes that kill or injure people are tragic any time of year, but they seem to be even more devastating during the holidays," says Wisconsin State Patrol Major Sandra Huxtable, director of the Bureau of Transportation Safety. "We want everyone to have a safe and enjoyable Thanksgiving, so we urge you to buckle up, slow down, pay attention and drive sober."