Virus puts kink in holiday weekend plans

A trip to the gas pump at places like the 76 station on 16th Avenue in Lewiston hasn’t been too painful for drivers lately, with regular gas selling for less than $2 per gallon. Those prices and a promising weather forecast for the area would normally make for a busy Memorial Day weekend, but concerns about COVID-19 might keep some would-be travelers home.

Memorial Day weekend, a time when Americans honor those who sacrificed their lives for their country, has traditionally been a time people filled up their gas tanks and hit the road to go enjoy the great outdoors; however, many likely will stay home this year because of coronavirus closures.

The average price for a gallon of gas nationwide was at $1.92 for regular and $1.80 for E85, a mixture of 15 percent gasoline and 85 percent ethanol. A gallon of diesel fuel was averaging $2.41 across the country Thursday, according to AAA Gas Prices.

Locally, Gas Buddy, a popular gas price tracking app, reports prices in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley range between $1.87 to $2.19 for a gallon of regular gas. A gallon of diesel was going for $2.21 to $2.59 in the valley Thursday afternoon.

Costco in Clarkston and Coleman Oil at 18th and G streets in Lewiston were tied for the lowest price for a gallon of regular 87-octane gas.

Twelve gas stations in the valley were charging $1.89 per gallon for regular gas and 10 gas stations were charging $2.21 for a gallon of diesel fuel, the lowest price reported in the area by Gas Buddy.

The price of gas has dropped dramatically in recent months. Last year at this time, the average price in Idaho was $3.20 per gallon and in Washington was $3.55, according to the Tribune archives.

Sunshine and warmer temperatures are on their way this weekend after a week of record-setting rainfall in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley and on the Palouse.

“It looks like some pretty nice weather coming up,” said Mark Turner, observing program leader for the National Weather Service in Spokane.

That means mostly sunny days with partly to mostly cloudy nights for the weekend, with highs in the mid-60s Saturday to nearly 80 on Monday for Lewiston and just a few degrees cooler for the Palouse. Memorial Day on the Palouse should be in the low 70s.

That follows a week during which both Lewiston and Pullman saw more rain Wednesday than in more than 100 years. It was the fourth-wettest May day ever in Pullman, Turner said.

Lewiston’s 2.18 inches of rain so far this month is a full inch above normal, he said. The 0.96 inches Lewiston got Wednesday broke a record of 0.92 inches set on that date in 1912. And Pullman’s 1.25 inches that day also broke a 1912 record of 0.98 inches there.

Showers are possible this afternoon, but Turner said it should be dry for the remainder of the weekend. The next chance of showers for Lewiston is a 20 percent possibility Tuesday.

Forecasts and other weather information for throughout the region are available at www.weather.gov/spokane.

AAA, which started issuing travel projections for Memorial Day 20 years ago, did not issue a travel projection for this weekend because the accuracy of the data used for the forecast by the insurance provider has been undermined by the pandemic.

Idaho State Police want those traveling through north central Idaho to know troopers will be out at full staff patrolling roadways from Lewiston to Riggins and beyond in an effort to keep motorists safe, according to a news release.

“We want this Memorial Day holiday to be a time we honor those who’ve sacrificed for our nation, and as appropriate, to enjoy friends and family,” District 2 Patrol Sgt. Chris Middleton said. “The current pandemic that’s hit our nation has meant extra anxiety for some. No one wants the added stress or tragedy that comes from being involved in a crash caused by irresponsible driving. That’s why we’re asking motorists to take extra precaution this holiday weekend, and why our troopers will be out ready to assist and enforce traffic laws.”

Idaho’s “Stay Healthy Order,” currently in Stage 2, continues to recommend people minimize nonessential travel.

Wells may be contacted at mwells@lmtribune.com or (208) 848-2275.

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