More Thanksgiving travelers are expected to be on the road this year thanks to a stronger economy and lower gasoline prices.
AAA reports 5.7 million Californians will travel 50 miles or more this four-day Thanksgiving weekend.
A small storm system is expected to roll through the Central Valley, but will depart late Wednesday evening, just in time for Thanksgiving, Jim Andersen of the National Weather Service said.
If you are planning to travel early this holiday season, Andersen said to be careful on the roadways. Even though minimal rainfall is expected, roads still can be slippery and will be congested during the busy holiday season.
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The storm system is expected to arrive on Tuesday and diminish by late Wednesday evening, bringing the snow level as far down as 2,000 feet – just in time for China Peak’s reported opening Friday.
More snowfall isn’t the only number expected to increase this holiday season. Gas prices are 70 cents cheaper than last year’s national average. Jeff Lenard, vice president of the National Association of Convenience Stores, said that with more money in travelers’ pockets, drivers may be more inclined to purchase snacks and travel farther than last year’s destinations.
“Consumers are saving extra money, a lingering effect from the recession,” Lenard said. “We are definitely seeing an increase in driving, and in-store sales have been strong all year.”
We just want people to stay safe and smart this holiday season.
Officer Johnny Fisher, California Highway Patrol
During the holiday weekend, 46.9 million Americans are expected to travel 50 miles or more from home, the highest number since 2007, according to AAA. Flights have decreased slightly this year, with 616,000 expected to fly, even though prices are expected to drop by 10 percent during the holiday weekend.
AAA says the average retail price for gasoline in Fresno is now $2.67 per gallon, 40 cents cheaper than the same time last year.
With congestion along Interstate 5 and snowfall hitting the upper passes, California Highway Patrol officer Johnny Fisher stressed the importance of staying safe and sober on the roadways.
“We had 45 deaths last year from accidents on the roadways during the holiday season,” Fisher said. “We want people to be careful and are doing everything we can during the holiday season to prepare, and drivers should prepare as well.”
Snow and ice are possible over the Grapevine along Interstate 5 and the Tehachapi pass on Highway 58 by Wednesday evening. Drivers should prepare for travel delays and potential road closures.
The National Weather Service and CHP both said that preparation is key. Leave early if possible, Fisher said. Plan routes, prepare for rainfall, and don’t forget it’s the holidays. Fisher said that it’s important that people remember to be patient.
“We just want people to stay safe and smart this holiday season,” Fisher said.
Although rain totals from the storm are expected to be small, Andersen said that the storm will hit about the same time that travelers start getting on the road.
“Any time we get moisture is a big deal,” Andersen said. “The timing is right, snow will make it more difficult in the foothills and Sierra Nevada.”
Temperatures also are expected to drop as Thanksgiving approaches, from a high in Fresno of 70 degrees on Monday to a high of 51 degrees on Thursday and a low of 33 degrees.
Megan Ginise: 559-441-6614