Thousands of holiday travelers yesterday jammed National and Dulles International airports, local bus stations and Union Station as this year's persistently rainy and foggy Thanksgiving weekend ended.
The wet weather, which is expected to end today, caused some delays on the roads, notably on I-95 south of the District, where southbound traffic was temporarily halted in midafternoon following an accident on the Occoquan Bridge, Virginia State Police reported.
However, traffic was reported flowing smoothly and without backups last night at the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel and the newly opened Fort McHenry Tunnel. Police at the tunnels said the availability of the two routes eliminated the congestion of past years.
At the two airports, officials said flights were full and lines at ticket counters long, even though many Washington area residents returned home Saturday or early yesterday to take advantage of special weekend fares.
Officials at the airports reported delays in flights bound to or from Chicago and other cities where snow was impeding air operations.
Crowds began gathering around 10 a.m. at National Airport, which on a normal Sunday serves about 40,000 passengers, officials said. Although figures were not available last night, yesterday appeared to be busier than usual. One airport official said Eastern Airlines had added 18 shuttles to and from New York.
Authorities said the airport was operating smoothly, although the day was busy.
"It's just a regular Thanksgiving," said Loyd Woonsue, an Eastern Airlines baggage agent at National.
Lines formed at ticket counters and crowds swelled elsewhere in the terminal at Dulles yesterday afternoon. "It's busy," said one operations officer. "Real, real busy." The airport remained busy through the late evening hours, but aside from the delays on Chicago flights, things were running smoothly, authorities said.
At the Greyhound Bus Lines terminal on New York Avenue NW, early morning lines of New York- and Pittsburgh-bound passengers stretched across the floor, and buses were being added to accommodate the crush, said Reva Rosskamp, a terminal manager.
"This runs a good race with Thanksgiving eve," she said. "A lot of people coming into town and a lot of people going out."
By midafternoon the terminal was still crowded, with about 60 people waiting for the bus to New York. Two vehicles are usually scheduled then, Greyhound officials said, but yesterday they thought they would need three or four.
"It's going to be like this throughout the rest of the day," said Emerson Taylor, another station manager.
At Union Station, officials said they planned to run 12 Metroliner trains between Washington and New York, instead of the usual eight. Extra cars had been added to the regular trains.
Station manager Martin J. Rush was expecting 20,000 to 25,000 passengers -- double the usual Sunday crowd. As of 4:30 p.m., the station was jammed, with long lines at the ticket windows, officials said.
Some train travelers, returning to the city earlier in the day, said they were happy to have gotten a jump on the Thanksgiving traffic.
"It wasn't too bad," said John Snow, 28, a computer programmer from Silver Spring who returned before noon from Vermont.
Nicole Beaudry of Vienna, who traveled from Montreal with her 4-year-old son, also had a good trip. Her only complaints had to do with the narrowness of the Amtrak slumber coach bed and the all-night vibration of the train.
"I compare it to spending the night on the handle of an electric toothbrush," she said.
With the Thanksgiving holiday at an end, National Weather Service forecasters are predicting a halt to the week-long rain. Although skies will clear, the daytime highs are expected to remain in the 40s through Thursday, with lows in the 20s -- the coldest thus far this season. About 1.77 inches of rain have fallen since Tuesday, said weather service forecaster Joseph Cerafatti. Around 4.47 inches of rain fell in November, he said, or 1.65 inches more than the normal November rainfall of 2.82 inches.
The rains have raised the level of the Potomac River, but to nowhere near the flood levels of last month.