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TSA screens record number of travelers as Memorial Day weekend kicks off

Motorists travel westbound along Interstate 40 on Thursday in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to hit the pavement over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday.
George Walker IV
/
Getty Images North America
Motorists travel westbound along Interstate 40 on Thursday in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to hit the pavement over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday.

Updated May 25, 2024 at 10:06 AM ET

America is back, baby.

Airports and roadways are expected to be jam-packed during the Memorial Day weekend, making up for travel lost during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new analysis from AAA. But severe and potentially destructive storms forecast for the Plains, Midwest and mid-South through Memorial Day weekend may dampen the fun.

On Friday, Transportation Security Administration officers screened 2,951,163 passengers at checkpoints nationwide — breaking the agency's record for most travelers screened in a single day. The previous record was set last year a few days after Thanksgiving on Nov. 26.

But it doesn't stop there. The TSA expects that from Thursday to Sunday, more than 18 million passengers and crew will be screened — up 6.4% compared to the same time last year.

AAA projects 43.8 million people will travel 50 miles or more from home from Thursday, May 23 through Monday, May 27 — "the second highest Memorial Day weekend that we've ever tracked" and up 4% from last year, Aixa Diaz, a spokeswoman for AAA, told NPR.

About 38.4 million people are projected to drive over Memorial Day weekend — "the highest number for that holiday since AAA began tracking in 2000," the organization said.

Another 3.5 million people will take to the skies.

AAA says this indicates America is back to pre-pandemic travel numbers. "Not only that, but we're surpassing them," Diaz said.

Motorists travel westbound along Interstate 40 on Thursday in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to hit the pavement over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday.
George Walker IV / AP
/
AP
Motorists travel westbound along Interstate 40 on Thursday in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to hit the pavement over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday.

"A lot of people are wanting to get away to sort of get that first taste of summer. But also this continues this pattern of post pandemic travel," Diaz said. "It started off as revenge travel right after the pandemic around like 2021, 2022. But what we've really seen the past couple of years is that more people now are prioritizing travel."

Tips to prepare for bad weather and traffic

Bad weather, including thunderstorms, wildfires and even snow, is forecast to hit areas including Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Montana as "multiple jet stream disturbances tap into warm and humid air," Weather.com said citing outlooks from NOAA's Storm Prediction Center.

Threats this weekend also include tornadoes, damaging wind and hail. This is all set to come after a tornado swept through Iowa earlier this week killing four people and injuring at least 35.

Despite this, most travelers have already left or are planning to leave on Friday.

"So right now we're in the thick of it," Diaz said. The best chance to avoid jam packed roads is to "avoid hitting the road during those rush hour times when many people who are still going to work on Thursday and Friday, are mixing with travelers on the roads," she said.

Diaz also recommends travelers "try to leave as little to chance as possible."

Copyright 2024 NPR

Jaclyn Diaz is a reporter on Newshub.