Weather, high gas prices unlikely to affect Thanksgiving travel
by Brian Anderson
Nov 25, 2013 | 2669 views |  0 comments | 50 50 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Area gas prices are on the rise with it being a holiday week.  (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
Area gas prices are on the rise with it being a holiday week. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
Forecasts of inclement weather conditions and an increase in gas prices probably won’t be enough to keep holiday travelers off the roads later this week, experts said Monday.

Just in time for the busiest travel day of the year on Wednesday, Calhoun County could see frozen precipitation, according to a spokeswoman with the National Weather Service’s office in Calera. Rainfall was expected to start late Monday and last through Wednesday morning, said Jessica Chace, a weather service meteorologist.

“There’s a possibility of a wintery mix between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. Wednesday morning,” Chace said. “So if you’re leaving really early, you might see some of that.”

High temperatures are expected to peak in the 30s on Wednesday, but most of the ice is unlikely to stick around, Chace said.

That doesn’t mean conditions will be exactly ideal for driving, said Clay Ingram, a public relations manager with the American Automobile Association in Birmingham, especially for Alabama drivers heading out of state.

“That’s not really common for us,” Ingram said about the possible Thanksgiving conditions. “So people need to be alert and aware, take things slow if there’s going to be a lot of ice on the roads.”

If the weather isn’t keeping people indoors, then gas prices certainly aren’t going to either, Ingram said. The average cost of a gallon of gas in Alabama on Monday was $3.17, according to Gas Buddy, a website that allows users to compare prices by city, state or zip code. While that’s lower than the national average of $3.26, it’s 8 cents higher than the average price a week ago. Gregg Laskoski, a petroleum analyst with Gas Buddy, said that’s because four oil refineries in the Gulf Coast have faced production problems recently.

But, Ingram said, a slight increase in gas prices is typical around the holidays as gas stations try to cash in on long-distance travelers.

“They may even go up more in the next week,” said Ingram, who noted gas prices also tend to spike a little more around Christmas.

The slight hike in price this week – or long-trending drop since the summer – probably aren’t going to play that big of a role for late-week travel around Thanksgiving, Laskoski said.

“You know, it’s funny, we did a survey of 10,000 people, and 55 percent said they were driving the same as last year,” Laskoski said. “Seventeen percent said they were driving more. I don’t think gas prices alone are enough to change behavior for people with holiday plans.”

Ingram said that’s because people have an emotional attachment to Thanksgiving and Christmas that make canceling plans a non-option.

“Most people aren’t going to call up their parents and say, ‘I can’t make it this year because gas prices are too high,’” Ingram said. “That’s not going to fly with friends and family.”

That’s true for Anniston resident Cathy Tillery, who said neither the weather nor gas were going to prevent her from heading to Talladega and Cherokee counties to visit relatives on Thanksgiving.

“You don’t really have a choice, because it’s family,” Tillery said Monday, while filling up her silver Nissan Infiniti at the Murphy USA gas station on McClellan Boulevard in Anniston. “It’s something you have to do.”

For Chad Greathouse, an Anniston resident making an 82-mile trip to Walker County for Thanksgiving, it’s going to take a lot more than an 8-cent spike in prices to keep him off the road.

“Unless it goes up to $15 a gallon,” Greathouse said Monday, after filling up his Dodge truck. “Then I might think about not going.”

Some residents don’t need prices to get nearly that high to keep them home. Talladega resident Larry Armbrester said he stopped making long-distance travel plans for the holidays when the price of a gallon of gas started climbing above $3.

“That was six, seven, eight years ago,” Armbrester said Monday, while taking a quick pit stop from holiday shopping. “You got to get everything done in one trip now.”

Of course the best way to avoid the road conditions and filling up at the pump is to just stay at home, which is where Anniston resident Zan Elliott said he’ll be on Thanksgiving.

“We got family coming to visit us,” Elliott said. “So, I’m not too worried about it.”

Staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.

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