Heavy Traffic Coming To Rim Country

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Rim Country highways could get crowded at times over the Christmas-New Year holiday.

People traveling to and from Payson will join 13.2 million others in the west on the nation's roadways during the holidays.

Nationwide, more than 65 million Americans are expected to travel between Christmas and New Year, public affairs manager for AAA Arizona, Linda Gorman said.

Of that number, more than 53 million are expected to travel by motor vehicle, she said.

"The roadways and airports will stay busy across the upcoming holidays as Arizonans visit family, friends and enjoy their winter vacations," she said.

With both Sunrise Park Resort, near Pinetop-Lakeside on the White Mountain Apache Indian reservation, and Arizona Snowbowl in Flagstaff being open, Gorman said traffic in Rim Country could be a little heavy at times.

"It's unusual for them to be open this early, but the good news is, the Christmas holiday is more spread out than a lot of others," she said.

She said motorists likely would not see the same kind of congestion as during the Thanksgiving weekend though.

"The Christmas-New Year holiday takes place over a longer period of time than, Thanksgiving for example, so people won't see the same kind of bumper-to-bumper traffic like holidays that only last a day or two," Gorman said.

Because the Christmas-New Year holiday lasts longer, she said travelers need to prepare if they plan to drive to where there's snow.

Emergency kits recommended

Motorists should take extra water, food, blankets and snow chains, or a vehicle capable of driving in winter conditions, like a 4-wheel-drive, before coming to higher elevations, Gorman said.

"Last year, our emergency roadside service responded to nearly 8,500 stranded motorists in the state between Christmas Eve and New Year's Day.

We strongly encourage motorists to pack an emergency car care kit and to get a pre-trip check-up before heading out of town, if possible," Gorman said.

Friday, Dec. 21 is expected to be one of the heaviest traffic days of the season, she said.

Gorman said motorists should call, or log onto AZ511 to check road conditions and restrictions prior to starting any holiday travel.

Travelers should also be prepared to pay more this year to go see Grandma, she said.

"As we said, costs are up across the board this year, so people should budget for the increase in the price of gas.

Running out of gas before getting to Grandma's house would put quite a damper on the holidays," she said.

Gorman said people could estimate how much gas would cost them by using tools like fuelcostcalculator.com.

She also recommended checking weather forecasts before going into higher elevations.

For Payson, the National Weather Service Web site says there is a 30-percent chance of snow Friday, with clearing Saturday, and sunny to mostly sunny conditions through Christmas.

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