It's the most wonderful time of the year. Except, perhaps, if you're traveling. With a storm heading toward the Midwest, airlines are warning of possible delays and cancellations, and the nearly 5 million Florida drivers taking to the roads may have to contend with thunderstorms. Still, things may be better on the ground around the airport. The final lane of the $215 million interchange project opened Wednesday morning.
. A winter storm is expected to move through Texas, the Mississippi Valley and toward Kansas City by today, said National Weather Service meteorologist John McMichael.
. The Southeast could face thunderstorms, while northern areas will likely see sleet and snow.
. North Florida could be at risk for thunderstorms tonight and early Friday, but the Tampa Bay area will probably see increased rain chances on Christmas before a cold front moves through.
. Tampa International Airport is expecting 44,000 travelers today and 40,000 Friday, said TIA spokeswoman Brenda Geohagan. Parking should be plentiful with about 25,000 spots available.
. Travelers should arrive two hours in advance for domestic flights and three hours for international flights, Geohagan said.
. Monitor the TIA Web site, tampaairport.com, for flight status. Check your airline's Web site in advance to know your options if your flight is canceled.
. The final ramp of the four-year Airport Interchange Project opened Wednesday morning, giving drivers two ramps toward the north and west after leaving the airport.
. Drivers heading to Clearwater on the Courtney Campbell Parkway should use the left lane on this ramp.
. Those going to the Veterans Expressway, Memorial Highway or Eisenhower Boulevard should stay to the right, said Department of Transportation officials.
. About 87 million people nationwide are expected to travel for Christmas and New Year's, with about 80 percent of those trekking by car, said AAA Auto Club South.
. About 4.8 million of those car travelers are from Florida, AAA spokesman Gregg Laskoski said.
. Drivers should check their tires for pressure and tread before heading out, make sure vehicles are in good condition and plan trips carefully to decrease drowsy driving, Laskoski said.