AAA Carolinas estimates that 775,000 North Carolinians will be driving on their vacation, 3 percent more than did last year. Air travel is expected to hold steady, with 60,000 North Carolinians flying.
Hotel bookings are up 9 percent over last Memorial Day, and Carolinians have reserved about 20 percent more rental cars this holiday compared to last year.
AAA attributed the rise in road travel to a 13-cent drop in gasoline prices since May 7 and a decline in unemployment.
"I have been here 22 years, and I've yet to see gas prices do what they're doing with Memorial Day weekend coming up," said Gary Harris, executive director of the N.C. Petroleum and Convenience Marketers.
This time last year, Triangle drivers were paying nearly $4 for a gallon of regular, unleaded gas. Thursday, the average price was $2.71 in Raleigh.
Harris attributed the dramatic drop to simple supply and demand and predicted that prices would stay at current levels for a while.
"They told everyone to conserve gasoline, and gasoline consumption in North Carolina and nationwide is down, so that is helping keep prices down, too," he said. "They don't anticipate prices rising drastically or dropping drastically from what they are now. ...
"The good news is consumers need to enjoy the little bit of stability we have in the market right now."
Whether on the road or at home, North Carolinians will get brushed by a cold front that will slip in Friday and bring rain and cooler temperatures for the start of the weekend.
The best chance for strong or severe storms will be Friday afternoon and evening. The chance of rain will decrease Saturday and Sunday. Temperatures will drop into mid 70s Saturday, but climb back into the lower 80s Sunday.
On Memorial Day, the skies will be partly sunny again, and the high will be in the upper 80s. There's a slight chance of an isolated storm.
Although most road construction has been halted for the weekend, travelers will encounter some roadwork.
- Interstate 85 South in Guilford County is reduced to two lanes at Exit 113 to N.C. Highway 62
- Both directions of Interstate 40 in Greensboro are reduced to two lanes between mile marker 213 and 214
- U.S. Highway 17 in Windsor is reduced to one lane on the Cashie River Bridge. Trucks are restricted, and detour signs are in place. All motorists are encouraged to use the U.S. 17 Bypass around Windsor.
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