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Weather good but gas prices high for holiday travelers; Thanksgiving should be dry, warm

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Travelers walk to the check-in counters with their luggage at the Bismarck Airport on Monday.

North Dakotans who travel for Thanksgiving should have fairly decent weather, but they’ll be paying a much higher price at the gas pump than last year.

One in five people in the Upper Midwest is expected to travel for the holiday, according to AAA. Nationally, nearly 55 million Americans are expected to travel at least 50 miles from their home — 98% of levels before the coronavirus pandemic.

“Travel is still roaring back from the pandemic,” said Debbie Haas, the auto group’s vice president of travel. “While gas prices and other inflationary pressures weigh on budgets, travel remains a top priority for Americans, particularly during the holidays.

“Travel spending is at the highest level since the pandemic began, which is a driving force behind our projections this year,” she said. “AAA expects busy roads and long lines at the airport, so leave early and be flexible with your travel plans.”

About 89% of all Thanksgiving travelers will drive. The average retail price of a gallon of gas in North Dakota on Monday was $3.55, down a dime from a week ago and down considerably from the record of $4.80 set on June 15. But it’s up from $3.20 a year ago, according to AAA.

North Dakota’s highest daily average gas price for Thanksgiving was in 2012, at $3.40 per gallon. However, “Higher gas prices aren’t enough to stop most people from traveling to be with family and friends,” said Gene LaDoucer, regional spokesman for AAA. “When gas prices are high, travelers look to offset the added cost by cutting expenses in other areas, such as lodging, shopping or dining out.”

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Air fares in the U.S. are 22% higher than last year, and hotel rooms cost 17% more than in 2021, according to the auto group. For people renting a vehicle to travel, there’s good news — car rentals cost 7% less.

Weather outlook

AccuWeather predicts “good” traveling conditions for North Dakota on Tuesday and “fair” conditions on Wednesday.

A storm expected to hit the Pacific Northwest “will lack a significant amount of moisture once it crosses the northern Rockies and enters the Plains,” Meteorologist Renee Duff reported. “This will result in flurries and light snow that should be more of a nuisance than a major travel disruption across parts of Montana, Wyoming and the Dakotas during the middle of the week.”

AccuWeather noted that flight disruptions caused by bad weather in other regions could have an “accordion effect” across the country. But Denver, Minneapolis and Chicago — cities North Dakotans often fly through — should have good travel conditions both Tuesday and Wednesday.

The National Weather Service forecast for North Dakota calls for high temperatures Tuesday in the upper 20s and upper 30s, with partly cloudy skies, and highs in the mid- to upper 30s on Wednesday with a chance of a rain-snow mix west and central. Forecasters expect a dry Thanksgiving, with highs in the 30s.

Black Friday shoppers should see another dry day, with highs in the mid-30s to mid-40s. For those planning to line up outside stories in the early morning hours, overnight lows are forecast in the upper teens and lower 20s.

Reach News Editor Blake Nicholson at 701-250-8266 or blake.nicholson@bismarcktribune.com.

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