Holiday trips

Some mixed wintry weather headed this way could impact plans to travel over the rivers and through the woods between now and Thanksgiving Day. But forecasters say sunny skies should return on the holiday.

“Most of the weather is coming Tuesday into Wednesday with some freezing rain and sleet expected Tuesday morning, turning to all rain in the afternoon,” said Liz Sommerville, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Charleston, W.Va.

A mix of rain and snow is projected Tuesday evening, becoming all snow overnight, then returning to a rain and snow mix Wednesday, she said, with the possibility of some light accumulation. Mountainous areas could see 3 inches of snow.

“It looks like most of the precipitation would be over by Wednesday evening, and Thanksgiving day will be chilly-around 33 degrees-but it should be a sunny day,” Sommerville added. “Friday’s temperature is expected to be in the 40s.”

Some folks were apparently trying to beat the weather by starting their holiday trip during the past weekend.

“We’re seeing many people traveling earlier this year, extending their Thanksgiving holiday to a week,” Debbie Florence, supervisor at the West Virginia Welcome Center in Williamstown, said Sunday.

She said holiday travelers are mixing with the annual influx of “snowbirds” who pack up and head into southern states for the winter.

“Most of the traffic is southbound this time of year,” Florence said. “And we expect to see a lot more Thanksgiving traffic coming through on Wednesday and next Sunday.”

Across the nation 38.9 million people are expected to drive more than 50 miles from home during the holiday weekend from Wednesday through Sunday, according to the AAA East Central Office in Pittsburgh. That’s a 1.6 percent decrease from last year’s 39.5 million who traveled by automobile for Thanksgiving.

Air travel is expected to decrease 3.7 percent, to 3.14 million travelers this year, and around 1.4 million people will travel by rail, bus, or cruise ship, the agency reported.

“Last year’s travel numbers included pent up demand resulting from the economic downturn,” according to AAA East Central president Jim Lehman.

He said the slightly lower projected travel numbers are consistent with travel trends throughout this year.

“Motorists will also enjoy the bonus of lower gas prices, which are at their lowest level for the holiday since 2010,” Lehman added.

AAA reported the national average for regular unleaded gasoline on Sunday was $3.27 a gallon. A year ago the average price per gallon was $3.42.

In Ohio the average was between $3.17 and $3.30 a gallon Sunday. West Virginia’s average was between $3.31 and $3.38 per gallon. According to AAA fuel prices should drop over the next few weeks.

Local prices, according to GasBuddy.com, ranged between $3.35 and $3.39 Sunday on both sides of the Ohio River.

Terry and Gail Cottrell from Fayette County, W.Va., were dropping their grandchildren off to spend Thanksgiving with relatives from Ohio at the welcome center Sunday afternoon.

“The traffic hasn’t been too bad, although it’s a bit windy,” Terry said. “And gas prices at most places along the way have been around $3.25 a gallon.”

Gail Cottrell noted fuel prices have been fluctuating in the last couple of months.

“We went to Kansas City in October and gas was selling for $2.92 a gallon,” she said.

Tony and Gail Jones were headed south for the Thanksgiving holiday.

“We’re from Detroit and are going to visit family in Charleston, S.C. for Thanksgiving,” Gail said. “The traffic and weather have been good so far, and hopefully we’ll be in Charleston before any bad weather comes Tuesday.”