MANATEE -- You can't predict traffic conditions from one minute to the next, but even with threatening weather conditions expected locally and in other parts of the country on Wednesday, Christmas Eve travel plans in and out of the Tampa Bay area were going smoothly and no changes were expected with local weather improving by Thursday.
Fortunately for local travelers, a decline in weather conditions was not expected until late afternoon Christmas Eve, allowing many to arrive at their destinations before the storms. The forecast for Christmas Day is clear skies.
Barring any major incidents on the roadways, back-and-forth Christmas travel conditions look promising.
For travelers heading out of state for the holiday, the National Weather Service showed winter weather advisories in the northeastern part of the country with a "complex weather system" moving into the Northeast on Christmas Eve while a cold front moves into Florida at the same time, bringing stormy conditions.
As of Wednesday morning, there were no major delays on the area roadways and airports.
Sarasota Bradenton International Airport's website showed no issues as of Wednesday with all fights arriving and departing on time with one arrival delay expected out of Charlotte, N.C> An airport spokesman was unavailable for comment Wednesday as to today's expectations, but travelers and those expecting visitors from other parts of the country can monitor flight information at srq-aiport.com.
Tampa International Airport travelers also were experiencing a smooth Christmas Eve Wednesday with no major delays being reported. An airport spokesman was unavailable for comment, but flight information can be tracked at tampaairport.com.
Roadways were all in the green Wednesday for local traffic in the Tampa Bay area, according to the Florida Department of Transportation's 511 system. All roads from Bradenton to Tampa to Orlando were being shown as traveling at normal speeds and with weather conditions clearing locally for Thursday, no weather-related slowdowns are expected. Visit fl511.com to monitor current road conditions before you travel.
The good news at the gas pump continues for Christmas travelers. According to flordiastategasprices.com, the average cost for a gallon of gas statewide is $2.44 and even cheaper in Manatee County where gaspricewatch.com lists a gallon of gas locally at an average price of $2.35 and falling.
Predicting a safe holiday travel experience is not possible. Florida Highway Patrol cautions drivers to be careful throughout the holiday season as roadways fill with motorists anxious to get home to see family.
"Whether you are driving across town or across the state, the Department of Highway and Safety and Motor Vehicles reminds everyone to stay alert, courteous and safe as they journey the state's roads this holiday season." FHP Lt. Gregory Bueno said in a prepared statement. "Last year in Florida, 66 people lost their lives in nearly 14,000 crashes that occurred between Dec. 23 and New Year's Day."
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter@urbanmark2014.