HOLIDAY TRAFFIC (copy)

In this time-exposure file photo, a California Highway Patrol vehicle (the curving lights in center) weaves across lanes on Highway 99 in Bakersfield on Nov. 23, 2005. The maneuver is used to control traffic heading south to Los Angeles.

A major winter storm is expected to make already difficult travel conditions considerably worse this Thanksgiving holiday.

Drivers are urged to pack up and head out even earlier than they normally would this year lest a freeway accident or unforeseen road closure result in a missed flight or late arrival.

"As you can imagine, busy freeways and busy airports only get more congested with the weather issues,” said Ray Watson, president of Uniglobe Golden Empire Travel on Camino Media. "This is going to be one of those holiday travel seasons where patience is going to be a virtue.”

With most flights booked solid this time of year, he recommended travelers through Los Angeles International Airport plan to check in two hours ahead of their scheduled departure. That's because if traffic causes anyone to miss a flight, he said, the wait for the next available departure could take a day or more.

The weather forecast looks decidedly uncooperative. Meteorologists with the National Weather Service in Hanford are predicting freezing temperatures Tuesday and a major winter storm to arrive by evening, with heavy snow expected in the southern Sierra Nevada.

On Wednesday night there's a strong chance of snow on the Tejon Pass, as well as snow on Kern's desert floor, the weather service stated. It expressed high confidence the storm will bring the valley portion of the county strong winds, rain, freezing temperatures and even snow.

Meanwhile, in the Kern County mountains, it said a winter storm warning was already in effect Monday above 3,000 feet, with the strongest winds blowing through and below the mountain passes.

The Automobile Club of Southern California said Monday it anticipates a record 4.3 million Southern Californians to head out of town for the holiday. It said 85 percent of them will be driving to their destinations and that, if there's any good news in it, it's that gasoline prices are down.

Bakersfield's average of $4 per gallon for regular Monday is down a nickel from a week earlier, it said. Elsewhere in the state prices were down a dime Monday at $3.91, according to the auto club.

The California Highway Patrol on Monday issued a travel warning unrelated to the weather.

It called Thanksgiving one of the state's deadliest holidays, noting 59 people were killed during the Thanksgiving holiday in 2018. Of the 42 killed in CHP jurisdictions, 43 percent weren't buckled up, the agency stated in a news release.

There will be a "maximum enforcement period" from 6:01 p.m. Wednesday through 11:59 p.m. Sunday, during which time all available CHP officers will be on the roads on the lookout for impaired, distracted or otherwise unsafe driving, the release said.

The CHP strongly suggested designating a sober driver, adding that during last year's Thanksgiving, the agency arrested 931 people on suspicion of driving under the influence.

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. issued its own set of recommendations Monday in case the coming storm cuts off power to some customers.

It advised having flashlights, radios and fresh batteries on hand, plus plastic containers with frozen water inside in case an outage cuts off power to the refrigerator.

The San Francisco-based utility also recommended securing outside furniture and other items so they don't blow around and cause damage. It asked anyone who comes across a downed or hanging power line to call 9-1-1 and then the utility itself at 800-743-5000.

Also, if the power does go out, PG&E said to make sure to turn off most appliances, except one lamp, so that when the electricity returns it doesn't overload the circuit.

John Cox can be reached at 661-395-7404. Follow him on Twitter: @TheThirdGraf.

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