Weather changes travel plans
| November 23, 2010 8:00 PM
Don Selk knew the area's first major snowfall of the winter was coming, but the aftermath presented rough surprises.
"No matter how prepared you get - with your vehicles, snow equipment and mentally in general, it's still not enough," the Post Falls senior said while filling his truck with gas on Monday afternoon. "Your body isn't used to the (snow removal) workout and your mind isn't used to the roads. Mother Nature packs a stronger whack than you realize and plan for."
Selk planned to drive to Montana for Thanksgiving, but the snow and predicted cold weather torpedoed the trip.
"Just not worth me risking it anymore," he said. "Years ago I wouldn't have even thought about it. But there comes a time when I'm content just staying home when the weather turns."
Mountain passes in both directions - Fourth of July and Lookout in Idaho and Snoqualmie in Washington - had compact snow and ice on Monday afternoon.
It snowed heavily on Snoqualmie, making traction tires a requirement, according to the Washington Department of Transportation.
Motorists are urged to use extreme caution this week by allowing extra travel time and having warm clothes and blankets due to freezing temperatures and continued snow flurries expected. They're also advised to check road and pass conditions ahead of time.
Area gas prices are still pushing the $3 mark heading into the holiday, but AAA predicts stability ahead.
"AAA expects neither any substantial increase nor a drop in regional pump prices for this holiday," said Dave Carlson, AAA Idaho spokesman.
Monday's average price, according to AAA, was $2.93 in Coeur d'Alene and a nickel more in Post Falls.
The numbers are slightly higher than six months ago and more than 30 cents higher than a year ago.
The average price in Idaho is $2.94 and the U.S. $2.87.
AAA projects a 10.7 percent increase in overall travel in the region compared to a year ago and an 11.4 percent increase across the country. The predictions were made before Monday's blast of snow.
"While Americans remain cautious with household budgets and discretionary spending amidst high levels of unemployment, many are in a better financial position this Thanksgiving ... ," AAA President Robert Darbelnet said. "This improvement, along with a strong desire to spend time with friends and family, is expected to propel a significant increase in Thanksgiving travel."
The association said 94.1 percent of all travelers will go by car, representing the highest percentage of auto travel share across the five holidays in AAA's recorded history. That is an increase of 12 percent from last year.