If you’re planning to go home for Christmas, expect lots of company on the highways.
Holiday travel is expected to set records this year, with 2.8 million people in Georgia and 98.6 million across the country projected to travel 50 or more miles during the year-end holiday season, according to AAA. That’s a 4.6 percent increase in the state and 4 percent nationally.
“Continued growth in consumer confidence and disposable income, an extended holiday period, and low gas prices should drive expected travel volumes to the highest level we have ever seen during the year-end holidays,” said AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins.
In Georgia, 2.6 million of those travelers are expected to be going by car, a 4.8 percent increase from last year. The predicted 152,242 air travelers represent a 1.3 percent increase, and people using other modes of travel are projected to increase 5 percent, to 109,883.
Gas prices fell below $2 a gallon last week at various filling stations in Georgia, AAA reported Sunday, though not yet in Gainesville. The lowest gas Monday in Gainesville, according to GasBuddy.com, was $2.19 at BP at 2310 Old Cornelia Highway and Miller Drive, Marathon at 2550 Limestone Parkway and Clarks Bridge Road and Chevron at 2415 Old Cornelia Highway and Oconee Circle.
“Gasoline prices are plunging with little sign of slowing down,” Jenkins said. “Oil prices dropped for the fourth consecutive week because of increased oil production and low demand, and that’s keeping downward pressure on the price of gasoline. It is unclear exactly how low prices will go, but gasoline will keep getting cheaper as long as oil does.”
But you’ll need to be careful, especially if you’re planning an early getaway. There’s a 100 percent probability of rain today and Wednesday, before easing back to 80 percent Wednesday night, with showers and thunderstorms possible, according to the National Weather service. Fog is also likely before 2 p.m. today.
“It’s a potent low-pressure system,” said Nikole Listemaa, a forecaster with the weather service in Peachtree City.
“Carry an umbrella and drive slowly,” Listemaa said. “Locally heavy rain can reduce visibility and cause ponding on the roads, so just take it slow.”
As for a white Christmas, she said there’s a slight chance of rain mixing with snow overnight Wednesday into Thursday in far North Georgia’s higher elevations, “but it’s only 20 percent, so it looks like the moisture’s going to have a chance to get on out before the cold comes in.”