Fuel up for frisky Fourth

Expensive gas and hot weather don't dampen area travel plans

Motorists travel north Thursday on Interstate 75 through the Gainesville area. Traffic is expected to increase in the coming days as motorists take to the roads for Fourth of July holiday weekend.

DOUG FINGER/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Friday, July 1, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, June 30, 2005 at 11:21 p.m.
Brandi Nelson turned her car around and filled her tank when she saw regular gas being sold for $2.17 per gallon earlier this week at the Kangaroo station on University Avenue and SW 13th Street.
Nelson said the prices were the lowest she'd seen in the area, where gas costs $2.24 per gallon on average.
But the 26-year-old Gainesville resident said higher prices wouldn't dissuade her from traveling during the Fourth of July holiday weekend.
"You've got to deal with it," she said. She's typical of most travelers in the state, according to the AAA Auto Club South. The group projects a record 2.4 million Floridians will travel 50 miles or more this weekend, including 2 million people by car, despite gas prices that are more than 25 cents per gallon higher than last year.
Travelers should expect a mixed bag of conditions for the three-day weekend. Prices at the pump should creep up even higher along with temperatures, but rain should taper off.
"It looks better for the weekend than it has this week," said Parks Camp, forecaster for the National Weather Service in Jacksonville.
Gainesville-area residents checking out weekend fireworks displays should have no problems, he said. There's a 50 percent chance of rain Saturday, 40 percent chance Sunday and 30 percent chance Monday, but conditions should be dry by nightfall each day.
"If it runs like a typical summertime weekend . . . we expect it to be over by 9 (p.m.)," he said.
Some beach-goer might have less luck. In Daytona Beach, the Weather Service is predicting a 60 percent chance of rain Saturday, with rain likely after 11 a.m. There's a 50 percent chance Sunday and 40 percent chance Monday.
The outlook is better for the Gulf Coast. In Cedar Key, there's a 40 percent chance Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
People should prepare for uncomfortable conditions throughout the state, as temperatures hit the 90s. Humidity should make temperatures feel like 100 degrees or hotter, Camp said.
"It's going to be very muggy this weekend," he said.
Travelers will also face fuel prices that averaged $2.23 per gallon for regular gas in the state Thursday, according to the AAA Web site. Average gas prices in Gainesville were a penny higher.
Prices should jump even higher this weekend, said AAA South spokesman Gregg Laskowski. But gas prices reaching the $2 per gallon mark last year didn't hurt travel, and the current prices shouldn't either, he said.
"It's had absolutely zero effect on consumers' leisure travel interest," he said.
While gas prices traditionally rise before July 4 and fall after, he said drivers shouldn't expect relief right away.
"It should happen at some point," he said, "but with crude oil up at $60 a barrel, I'm not sure we're going to see that in the short-term."
Nathan Crabbe can be reached at 352-338-3176 or crabben@ gvillesun.com.

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