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Mother Nature (mostly) cooperates during Thanksgiving travel rush

Travelers bracing themselves for problems during the annual Thanksgiving rush were largely surprised Wednesday as flying and driving went smoothly for most Americans.

The FAA’s flight delay information map was full of green dots on Wednesday evening, signifying no snags at major U.S. airports.

But in a late development, thousands of New Yorkers were stranded when Long Island Rail Road service was temporarily suspended to and from New York's Penn Station due to Amtrak switching problems.

Many travelers have already completed their journey, but others are still hitting the road.

“We’re expecting this evening to be particularly busy as some people who are working will be heading out for their trips,” said Heather Hunter, a spokeswoman for AAA.

“Tonight, we do expect the roads and airports to be busy as more people start to make their way to their destination.”

Slideshow: Images of Thanksgiving travelers across the U.S.

The only major weather problem to hit on Thanksgiving Eve was in the Chicago area, where dense fog enveloped the city early Wednesday, forcing airlines to cancel more than 130 flights at O'Hare International and more than 50 flights at Midway International, according to an early evening update from the Chicago Department of Aviation.

Most flight schedules were back to normal at O’Hare, but some regional jets still saw delays averaging two hours. Midway was reporting delays up to 90 minutes due to the earlier weather problems. American Eagle and United Express -- the regional carriers for American and United, both of which have hubs in Chicago -- were most affected, said Daniel Baker, CEO of FlightAware.

Airlines are striving to operate their full schedule today so that passengers reach their Thanksgiving destination, said Victoria Day, a spokeswoman for Airlines for America, which represents major U.S. carriers.

“So far, for the exception of some morning dense fog challenges in the Midwest, airline operations have run quite smoothly, thanks to the exhaustive preparations made by airlines, airports and FAA, and good weather in most of the United States,” Day said.

Earlier, Los Angeles International had warned travelers heading to the airport to expect congestion and traffic delays because of a labor demonstration in the area on Wednesday afternoon. But there were no flight delays or any major issues with passengers missing flights because of the demonstration, which has ended, the airport said.

The weather and traffic problems meant extra headaches for O’Hare International and Los Angeles International, which will be the busiest U.S. airports this Thanksgiving week, Orbitz said. 

Another reason to take extra care if you’re passing through them today? Both are also the country’s most stressful airports, according to a recent survey of business travelers

Are you on the road or in an airport today? Tell us how your journey is going on our Facebook page.

The TSA is fully staffed and ready for the annual spike in passengers, said TSA Administrator John Pistole. He encouraged travelers – especially those who rarely fly – to visit the agency’s website so that they are aware of some of the new procedures put in place earlier this year, such as those allowing children and passengers 75 and older to leave their shoes on at security checkpoints.

Give yourself enough time. Expect delays because people love to travel for the holidays,” Pistole said.

If you’re flying with food or gifts, the TSA also has some reminders to avoid unpleasant surprises at the security checkpoint.

You can bring pies and cakes, but be aware they are subject to additional screening.

Wrapped gifts are not prohibited, but officers can ask you to open a package to take a closer look at the contents so the TSA recommends passengers wrap gifts after their flight or ship them ahead of time.

Thanksgiving is also the busiest travel period of the year for Amtrak, which has borrowed passenger rail cars from its Canadian counterpart to make 300 additional seats available on trains running in the Northeast Corridor.

More than 43 million Americans will take a trip of 50 miles or more away from home between Wednesday and Sunday, AAA projected.

Almost 24 million will fly, with planes expected to be close to 90 percent full on the busiest traveling days, which include Wednesday and the Monday after Thanksgiving, according to Airlines for America.

Stay safe and happy travels.