Holiday travelers venture out, despite extreme storm's impact

(CBS News) The day before Thanksgiving is one of the busiest travel days of the year and millions of people may feel the impact of superstorm Sandy when they hit the road Wednesday.

For the fourth year in a row, more Americans are heading out of town for Thanksgiving. The motor club AAA predicts more than 43 million people will travel 50 miles or more. And the aftermath of Sandy could make the usual Thanksgiving travel crunch even worse.

Sandy rocked the nation's most populated and busiest travel corridor less than a month ago. Now, it's forced millions to rethink and reevaluate their holiday travel plans.

"The economic impact could be substantial," said AAA spokesperson Robert Sinclair. "People travel -- they spend money."

Sandy damaged or destroyed a quarter of a million vehicles. Personal and commercial cars and trucks were flooded, along with car dealerships and rental lots. The result is a rental car shortage during the busiest travel period of the year.

"The rental car agencies are saying that they're bringing more vehicles into the region, but when you're talking about a loss of a quarter million vehicles, we're talking about an awful lot of vehicles that have to come into to this region to make up the difference," Sinclair said.

In New York City, fuel rationing from Sandy will continue the rest of this week despite the holiday. And drivers nationwide will have to dig deeper this year to fill up. The national average price of gas is around $3.40 a gallon -- a drop of nearly 40 cents per gallon since early October. But it is still on track to set an all-time Thanksgiving high.

The airline industry took a major hit from Sandy, too. More than 20,000 flights were cancelled and airports closed for days. That industry was quick to bounce back as three million travelers are expected to fly this week

Jami Counter, of the travel website TripAdvisor, said, "You shouldn't see any lingering side effects or after effects of the airlines, either operationally or financially. Everything should be all systems go for this weekend."

For Jim Axelrod's full report, watch the video above.

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