The number of holiday travelers during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend is forecast to be slightly lower than last year, as consumer confidence dwindles and storms threaten travelers.
Approximately 43.4 million American are expected to travel 50 miles or more during the holiday weekend, 1.5 percent lower than last year's 44 million travelers, according to the U.S. auto club AAA.
The decrease is just shy of last year's four-year peak since the decreases witnessed in 2008-2009 when travel dropped by 25 percent, according to AAA.
Thanksgiving travel has been increasing since its low five years ago, until the minor drop this year.
The holiday period is defined as Wednesday Nov. 27 to Sunday Dec.1. Among those surveyed by AAA, the largest volume of travelers plan to start their trips today (37 percent), returning on Sunday (33 percent), while another 24 percent expect to return Monday Dec. 2 or later.
"While the economy continues to improve, the sluggish pace of the recovery is creating uncertainty in the minds of some consumers and therefore AAA is projecting a slight decline in the number of Thanksgiving travelers this year," AAA chief operating officer Marshall L. Doney, said in the announcement. "For those traveling the good news is motorists will receive a holiday bonus in the form of lower gas prices which are at their lowest levels for the holiday since 2010."
All this travel is threatened by storms carrying ice, sleet and rain to the northeast of the U.S. So far, storms haven't caused many flight delays or cancellations but forecasters expect the weather to worsen throughout the day.
"The timing of the storm couldn't be worse," Chris Vaccaro, spokesman for the National Weather Service headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, told CBS News. "We are seeing numerous threats as the storm is beginning to develop and intensify."
The largest traveling population affected by the weather may be the 38.9 million who will travel by auto, AAA reports.
The report also highlights the impact the holiday weekend will have on the hotel market. According to the group's leisure travel index, the average holiday hotel rate for AAA Three Diamond locations -- hotels throughout the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean rated by the AAA -- is expected to be approximately $142 a night, compared to $143 last year.