The American Automobile Association estimates more than 10 million Californians will drive between Christmas and New Year’s Day to reach their holiday destinations, a 1.4 percent increase compared to 2011, the company reported.
Cynthia Harris, spokeswoman for AAA of Northern California, said that this the fourth consecutive year travel has increased in the state.
“This season, we are experiencing the highest number of travelers as Californians kick-start the New Year with a holiday vacation,” she said.
Travelers will need to be thoughtful of gas prices before they venture out of the driveway.
The AAA website has TripTik Travel Planner, which identifies cheap gas prices and station locations on a travel route.
On Wednesday, Dec. 19, the website identified Arco, 2430 Joe Pombo Parkway, as the cheapest gasoline in Tracy with a cost of $3.12 per gallon of regular unleaded.
Gas prices during the holiday are expected to be down this year, according to GasBuddy.com, which tracks national gas prices.
The cost of a regular gallon of gasoline this week is 9 cents less than a week ago and 17 cents less than a month ago, but it’s still 1 cent more than this time one year ago, the website reports.
Weather conditions are also always a factor while traveling.
Johnnie Powell, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sacramento, said Wednesday that a “big storm is coming” and that it’s expected to hit Friday, Dec. 21 — the first day of winter.
“There will be a half an inch of rain by Friday and an inch by Saturday morning, tapering off on Monday,” he said.
Wet weather is nothing new to the San Joaquin Valley this rainy season, with Tracy collecting 4.42 inches of rain as of noon Thursday, Dec. 20, according to the gauge at 10th and A streets.
Powell said that with shorter days, the temperatures typically climb to the low 50s and drop down to the low 40s at night.
The weekend forecast calls for local daytime highs in the mid to low 50s for Friday to Christmas Day, while nighttime lows are expected to be in the high 30s to mid 40s, according to the National Weather Service website.
Travelers heading east to the Sierras can expect heavy snow conditions with accumulation as low as 4,000 feet on Friday, Powell said.
“The weekend doesn’t look good at all (in the Sierra’s),” he said. “Snow will be measured in feet and heavy at times — Friday and Saturday will be the worst. At the end of the day on Friday there will be 5 feet of snow, and Sunday it goes to (snow) showers.”
On Christmas day, a moderate wind and sunny skies are expected across much of the state, and temperatures are forecast to hit 55 degrees in the Central Valley.
• Contact Denise Ellen Rizzo at 830-4225 or firstname.lastname@example.org.