What do gas prices and rain have in common?
Both are forecast to fall as Memorial Day travelers hit the road for a long weekend of family gatherings, camping and start-of-summer getaways.
Paul Walker, a meteorologist with AccuWeather, The World-Herald's weather consultant, said the chance of rain sets in today and lasts through Monday.
“We expect Friday to be a partly sunny day. But there might be a shower or thunderstorm rolling through as well, especially with the return of warm air,” Walker said.
Highs today and Saturday will be in the mid-70s, followed by the low 80s on Sunday and Monday.
Travelers will be more enthusiastic about the forecast from Rose White, a spokeswoman for AAA in Nebraska: “We're delighted to see (gas) prices falling. And they should continue to do so over the next few days and weeks.”
The average price of unleaded gas in Nebraska and Iowa was at $4 per gallon Thursday. That was down from an average earlier in the week of $4.05 in Nebraska and $4.02 in Iowa.
“We're seeing many stations dropping even below that $4 mark, and ethanol blends are falling, too,” White said.
The drop in gas prices can be traced to several factors, including good news from some key refineries that serve the Midwest. An oil refinery in El Dorado, Kan., that had been offline for maintenance has resumed production, and one of the nation's largest refineries, in Joliet, Ill., will restart “any day,” White said.
Analysts still are waiting to hear when another large refinery, in Indiana, will return to production. When that happens, White said, prices in the upper Midwest likely will drop further.
“We are also seeing processed fuel from the Gulf Coast states being shipped up here, and that, combined with the refinery news, is triggering a dramatic drop in wholesale prices,” White said. “Another factor is that we are no longer having to import oil from Nigeria — a notoriously unstable producer — because of increased domestic production.”
A survey by AAA found that gasoline prices would have no impact on plans for 62 percent of intended travelers. A little more than a quarter of intended travelers said they would economize in other ways; 8 percent planned to take shorter trips and 3 percent expected to find an alternative mode of transportation.
AAA Travel projects 34.8 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the Memorial Day holiday. That number is down about 1 percent compared with a year ago.
More than 89 percent, or 31 million people, will drive to their destinations, White said. Holiday air travel is expected to be down 8 percent, with some 2.3 million Americans flying during the holiday period.
“American travelers are experiencing fee fatigue and frustration with everything from higher fares to airport security,” said Robert L. Darbelnet, president and CEO of AAA. “As a result, many are choosing road travel in higher numbers due to the lower cost and convenience it offers.”
The remaining 1.3 million travelers will depend on rail, bus or watercraft travel. Roughly 14 percent of the population in the West North Central region, which includes Nebraska, is expected to travel this holiday period.
Contact the writer: