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myTown Calendar

SPOTLIGHT

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Holiday travel

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The storm system that moved through Kansas on Wednesday might be the last precipitation we see for awhile. The next day there is any snow in AccuWeather's long-range forecast will be Christmas Day, and even that prediction calls for a mere 0.7 inches.

That is good news for anybody planning to travel during the holidays and, if the predictions hold true, there are a lot of people planning to do just that.

Earlier this week, AAA reported approximately 99 million Americans will be traveling at least 50 miles from home around Christmas and New Year's. That is a 4-percent increase from last year and, according to the Auto Club's records, the most since 2001 when AAA began keeping records.

"Lower gas prices are filling stockings with a little more cash to spend on travel this year," AAA President Marshall L. Doney said in a statement.

Gas prices have dropped so much AAA concludes drivers as a collective bunch are saving more than $400 million each day compared to prices paid earlier this year. In Kansas, per-gallon charges have dropped $1.25 since the year's high of $3.56 in late June. It has been more than five years since average Kansas prices were this low.

The so-called West North Central region, which includes Kansas and seven other states, will put 8.1 million people on the road and in the sky. This region boasts the highest share of population traveling, 38.4 percent, than of any region in the nation.

"Besides visiting families, popular holiday destinations among Kansas residents include Branson holiday lights and shows; Florida, from Orlando to Key West; following WSU basketball or KSU football to Hawaii or San Antonio, respectively; Colorado skiing; as well as New York City or Las Vegas," said AAA Executive Vice President Jim Hanni.

If you will be headed very far east, be aware there is a major storm forecast to develop over the lower Mississippi Valley on Tuesday, then pick up a lot of strength as it heads toward the Great Lakes on Christmas Eve. AccuWeather is calling for strong winds, heavy snow, torrential rain and thunderstorms to be included in the front. If possible, it is recommended to travel Monday or Tuesday before the storm hits, or wait until Friday after it's passed through. The advice holds for both highway and air travel, as flight disruptions could affect New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Cincinnati, Detroit and Chicago.

So whether you're going over the river or through the woods to Grandmother's house, use caution. Check for updated forecasts before leaving, and pack the appropriate supplies and provisions. Be safe this holiday season.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net

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