Ending on a summer high: Temps, storm chances, gas prices

Posted September 1, 2012 10:46 a.m. EDT
Updated September 1, 2012 1:28 p.m. EDT

— Labor Day vacationers headed outside Saturday in North Carolina will get a final few summer highs: temperatures in the 90s, late-day storms and skyrocketing gas prices.

An estimated 926,300 North Carolina residents are traveling at least 50 miles during the holiday weekend, including 85 percent on the road, according to AAA Carolinas. That's about the same number that traveled around Labor Day 2011.

The morning will be the best time for outdoor activities this three-day weekend, WRAL meteorologist Nate Johnson said. The storm chances go way up in the afternoons and evenings.

"Go out early in the day for the next few days, for sure," Johnson said.

On Saturday, temperatures will soar to around 96 degrees, and the heat index will reach 100 degrees. "It's going to be a hot one out there," Johnson said.

The rain chances stay low through around noon but start to creep up in the afternoon.

"As we head toward dinnertime, there'll probably about a 4 in 10 shot of seeing rain in any spot," Johnson said. "It's not going to rain all day. If it rains anywhere, it won’t rain for very long, but you may want to have the rain gear handy."

On Sunday, the temperatures will be lower – around 90 degrees – but the rain chances "go up almost through the roof," Johnson said. They will hit as high as 80 percent Sunday evening.

"Be ready for some rain if you plan on being outside on Sunday," Johnson said.

Labor Day itself will see a similar weather pattern: a daily high around 88 degrees, clouds and high storms chances in the afternoon and evening.

Gas prices up a penny a day

The temperatures aren't the only thing going up higher Labor Day weekend. Drivers will be contending with gas prices that, on average, have risen more than a penny a day since the July 4th holiday.

The average price for a gallon of regular, unleaded gasoline in North Carolina was $3.827 Saturday, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge. That was down two-thousandths of a cent from Friday.

On July 4, the statewide average gas price was $3.18 a gallon. A year ago, Labor Day travelers in North Carolina were paying $3.62.

AAA Carolinas think the recent spike in gas prices helped keep some people home for this holiday.

"A month ago, we expected a robust increase this year for the Labor Day holiday travel weekend, but with the recent spike in gas prices and the threat of Hurricane Isaac, many last-minute travelers will choose to stay home," David Parsons, president and CEO of AAA Carolinas, said in a statement.

For North Carolina residents who do travel, the most popular destinations are:

  • Asheville
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Wilmington
  • Atlanta
  • Boston
  • Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
  • New Orleans
  • Savannah, Ga.
  • Pittsburgh
  • Williamsburg, Va.

Drivers in Asheville and Wilmington will get a small break at the pump. Average prices there are lower than the state average – $3.77 a gallon in Wilmington and $3.80 in Asheville.