Gas is cheap, but weather looks poor for holiday

Friday, May 24, 2002

The elements appear to be conspiring against Missourians hitting the road and heading toward the state's lakes and rivers this Memorial Day weekend. But at least gas is cheap in most places.

The average price of regular unleaded in Missouri as of Thursday was $1.31 a gallon, below the national average of $1.40, according to surveys by AAA Auto Club of Missouri.

The club expects about 83 percent of this weekend's vacationers nationwide to be in motor vehicles. So what about that traditional spike in gas prices before a big driving weekend? In the opinion of AAA spokesman Mike Right, it's a myth.

"I've seen prices go down before a major holiday as much as I've seen them go up," Right said.

That state average is being pushed up by St. Louis, where prices are around $1.45. Right said he's not sure why prices are higher there, but the average in Kansas City is $1.29 and prices in the Springfield area are around $1.28.

All those numbers are significantly down from recent years. The state average was $1.68 a gallon last year and $1.50 in 2000.

So maybe Missourians can take that savings and spend it on some indoor entertainment.

The National Weather Service said storms are in the forecast for today and Saturday across most of Missouri. That will help keep lake and river waters high and cold -- two unwelcome properties when it comes to weekend recreation.

The clouds should open up for some sunshine and temperatures in the 70s by Sunday and perhaps in the 80s on Monday, the weather service said.

The Army Corps of Engineers has closed dozens of swimming areas for the weekend on four southern Missouri lakes -- Table Rock, Bull Shoals, Norfork and Clearwater -- because of high water.

Not that anyone would want to get wet.

"Well, the water's still a little too cold to play in it," said Melvin Taylor, park attendant at Branson's Indian Point campground on Table Rock.

It doesn't seem to be hurting business any: "We're all booked up for the weekend," Taylor said.

On Lake of the Ozarks, Jean Vold with the Lake West Chamber of Commerce said there are still rooms available at resorts in the area. The water is chilly but that doesn't stop everyone.

"For me it would be too cold to swim, but there are lot of people who get out there and go," Vold said.

Vold also has some advice for anyone discouraged by the weather: "Stick around. It'll change."

The state's rivers are finally coming back down to acceptable levels for float trips after getting socked by unusually heavy spring rains in recent weeks.

Pat Sutcliffe, secretary of the Missouri Canoe and Floaters Association, urged those planning to float to call their outfitter ahead of time. With 33 streams and 167 outfitters in Missouri, "they're the best judge of what the river is doing," Sutcliffe said.

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