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Gas prices, lake levels low for Memorial Day weekend in Ga., SC

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Falling gasoline prices are expected to encourage millions to hit the road for the Memorial Day holiday weekend, even more than last year, according to predictions from the American Automobile Association.

About 34.8 million people are expected to travel 50 miles or more from home this weekend, an increase of about 1.2 percent from last year, a statement from AAA said.

Gas prices have dropped in recent weeks, which could encourage more to take to the road. The average price for a gallon of regular unleaded in South Carolina was the lowest in the nation at $3.35. Georgia’s average price was eighth-lowest at $3.46, more than 30 cents lower than a month ago, according to AAA’s Fuel Gauge Report. About 88 percent of all holiday travelers are expected to drive to their destination, AAA said.

Many of those travelers will be headed to pools and beaches for the official start of the summer swimming season. Even so, those looking for a beach to swim will have to travel a little farther than Lake Thurmond.

There’s little water to swim in at the lake’s 31 designated swimming areas, said Billy Birdwell, the spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District .

“If not completely dry they are just about dry,” Birdwell said.

Drought conditions have reduced water levels at Thurmond to about 321 feet above sea level, more than 7 feet below normal.

It’s much the same at Mistletoe State Park. The water there has receded to the point there’s nowhere to swim, according to Kim Hatcher, a spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

“The swimming area is dry,” Hatcher said. “People can still swim, but they will have to go out farther in the lake.”

Anyone who does that should keep in mind the dangers of swimming outside of designated areas, Birdwell said. There can be a lot of underwater hazards and unseen drop-offs that can be treacherous for swimmers, he said.

“It can go from knee-deep to 17 feet of water without warning,” he said. “That’s why it is very, very important for anyone and everyone to wear a life jacket when swimming anywhere in the lake.”


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