Millions of people might be traveling this holiday weekend, but their trip probably won't be anything like Jay Garganeous' flight home to Grovetown on Monday.
Stationed in Baghdad, Iraq, Army Pfc. Garganeous was recently granted 15 days' leave to visit his family. It was a trip that took him to Kuwait, Ireland, Newfoundland and then Atlanta.
"I just got back home," he said, noting that he'll celebrate both Thanksgiving and Christmas with family before his return to Baghdad. "I'm just still trying to calm down about the fact that I'm home."
Other area residents also will head home to celebrate the holiday. AAA Travel Agency projects a more than 2 percent increase in the number of people taking trips of 50 miles or more nationwide compared to last year.
Despite continued worries about terrorism, the conflict in Iraq and higher gasoline prices compared to last Thanksgiving, more than 1.2 million Georgians are predicted to travel between 6 p.m. Wednesday and midnight Sunday.
"Although gas prices may be slightly higher than last year, that isn't likely to interfere with anyone's travel plans," said Kevin Bakewell, the senior vice president of AAA Auto Club South.
According to AAA, 56 percent of travelers intend to stay overnight with relatives or friends, while 26 percent will stay in a hotel or motel. There also are some using the holiday as a vacation.
Ten percent of travelers are expected to go to the beach, eight percent to the mountains and three percent to an amusement park, according to AAA.
In Georgia, about 1 million are projected to drive, while 168,000 will fly. For those driving in Georgia, unleaded gasoline prices are nine cents higher this Thanksgiving compared to last year, but the current statewide average cost - $1.36 - has decreased by a penny since last month.
For the Augusta-Aiken area, unleaded gasoline averages $1.34 a gallon - the same price as last month and four cents higher than a year ago, according to AAA. In South Carolina, unleaded gasoline is averaging $1.38 - a penny less than last month but nearly five cents higher from last year.
There's a slight chance of showers Wednesday night and Thanksgiving Day, according to the National Weather Service in West Columbia, S.C. After that, conditions should be mostly sunny.
The high temperature on Thanksgiving Day is predicted in the mid-60s, with a low in the mid-40s. The record high for Thanksgiving in Augusta - 83 - was set in 2001, said Dave Schuetrum, of the National Weather Service. The record low for the holiday is 21 degrees, set in 1974.
One thing that's for certain is police presence on the roads. The Georgia State Patrol will be targeting motorists who are driving impaired or are not wearing a seat belt. Twenty-one road fatalities are predicted this year in Georgia.
DINNERS SET FOR THANKSGIVING DAY
Reach Preston Sparks at (706) 828-3904 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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