Although there’s plenty happening Labor Day weekend to keep Johnstowners busy on these last summer days, a wet, sticky and rumbling weather forecast could make barbecue parties and ethnic festival-goers seek shelter.
“The theme for the upcoming holiday weekend is going to be warm and humid with showers and thunderstorms around each day,” said Erik Pindrock, associate meteorologist at AccuWeather in State College. “Starting with (today), there could be some areas of fog in the morning.”
Forecasters expect temperatures to hover around 80 degrees for the weekend, with sun that could be cut short by off-and-on precipitation. Following the weekend, more seasonable temperatures should settle in – the upper 60s and lower 70s of early fall.
Pindrock said this weekend’s storms should last only an hour or so – nothing like Wednesday’s downpour.
“If anyone has outdoor plans, they can still go ahead with that, but you certainly want to keep your eye to the sky,” he said. “If you hear thunder, it’s a good idea to get inside.”
To those who plan on beating the area’s intermittent storms and skipping town for the four-day weekend: Roughly 3 million others have the same idea. Pennsylvania Turnpike officials are expecting heavy traffic to delay and congest the roadways during peak travel times.
Turnpike officials expect around 2.7 million vehicles on the road this weekend – more than last year’s count. Motorists should expect slow or blocked traffic today from 4 to 8 p.m. and Monday from 3 to 7 p.m. Maintenance and construction work will be suspended for most of the holiday weekend.
State police also are beefing up turnpike patrols – they’ll be on the lookout for aggressive or texting drivers and those not wearing seatbelts.
“If you speed excessively, tailgate or weave in and out of traffic, you’re most likely going to be pulled over by one of our troopers and cited,” Troop T Capt. Gregory Bacher said in a release.
Although failure to wear a seatbelt is a secondary offense in Pennsylvania for nonminors – meaning a motorist 18 years or older can’t get pulled over for that alone – texting while driving became a primary offense last year. First-time fines for distracted drivers are $50. For those not strapped in, it’s $10.
At least grinding out the out-of-town car ride won’t cost as much as in recent years. The American Automobile Association reports gas prices will be dropping to their lowest amounts in three years for the Labor Day weekend.
“There’s more than enough gas supply for the current demand,” said Michael Green, AAA spokesman, of the 8 percent shift from last year. “That’s why we’ve seen gas prices remain relatively stable (recently).”
Green said he studies national trends, and one topical item that is driving up gas futures prices is concern about a U.S. strike in Syria.
“Even if gas prices rise in the coming days due to Syria concerns, they’re still going to be cheaper than in recent years,” he said.
Justin Dennis is a multimedia reporter with The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/JustinDennis.