According to AAA Michigan, the number of people traveling during the Fourth of July holiday is expected to climb from 2011. Nancy Cain, spokesperson for AAA, said people are likely to take advantage of lower fuel costs and warm weather to participate in Fourth of July events away from their homes.
Cain said in 2011, 1.2 million people traveled in Michigan and data points to an increase to 1.4 million Wednesday. She said another factor in the number of people leaving home is the holiday lands in the middle of the week, so many are choosing to take vacations around it.
"Because the Fourth is on a Wednesday this year, we anticipate a lot of people will take the entire or the second half of the work week off," Cain said. "This is a mostly driving holiday, but people could be traveling a little farther than last year. Even though the economy isn't robust, the price of gas has dropped to a state average of $3.40 when it was $3.75 last July 4. This is allowing people to travel a greater distance and stay a little longer."
The Michigan State Police and AAA have teamed up once again to keep drunk drivers off the roads with Operation CARE (Combined Accident Reduction Effort). Cain said most accidents that happen during the holiday involve alcohol.
"If you're going to drink, don't get behind the wheel. The state police are stepping up efforts through July 8 and will be looking for drunk and reckless drivers. It is a good idea to put away the cell phones, forget about texting, be alert and follow the speed limit laws," she said. "We will have complimentary coffee and beverages at many of the rest areas around the state so drivers can stop, stretch and take a break from driving for a bit."
People who choose to celebrate the holiday in Northeast Michigan are going to enjoy warm and dry weather from Wednesday through Friday. Tim Locker, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Gaylord, said there is a slight chance of rain early Wednesday, but then the heat will take over.
"There could be a few stray thunderstorms early in the morning Wednesday, but it is only a 30 or 40 percent chance," Locker said. "The high temperatures will be in the low 80s with high humidity so it is going to be hot, dry and muggy. The wind is going to be from 5 to 10 miles per hour, so it shouldn't hinder any of the firework shows."
According to Locker the Alpena area hasn't had any rain since the middle of June and conditions are dry. He reminds people to use caution and have a water source nearby when using fireworks or sparklers.
"There has only been 0.13 of an inch of rain in Alpena since June 18, but at this point, it doesn't look like there will be any red flag warnings because of the high humidity," he said. "The conditions are still extremely dry, though, and people who are using fireworks or starting bonfires should take the necessary precautions."
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689.