Busy, beautiful Fourth of July weekend ahead
Vacationers headed to the Brainerd lakes area for the Fourth of July weekend should expect low gas prices and gorgeous weather. Those hitting the road or skies this weekend will be among a projected 43 million travelers, a record-breaking number ...
Vacationers headed to the Brainerd lakes area for the Fourth of July weekend should expect low gas prices and gorgeous weather.
Those hitting the road or skies this weekend will be among a projected 43 million travelers, a record-breaking number according to AAA.
"Independence Day is always the most-traveled holiday of the summer, but this year it will be bigger than ever, primarily because of low gas prices," said Joseph J. Richardson Jr., president and CEO of AAA, in a news release. "Airports will be just as crowded as the roads, because low fuel prices are making it more affordable to fly. If fundamentals remain the same, this could be a record-breaking year for summertime travel."
U.S. drivers have saved about $20 billion on gasoline so far this year compared to the same period in 2015, which has made travel more affordable than in recent years. A more confident consumer and rising economic activity also are offsetting a cooling labor market to help boost holiday travel, AAA reported.
Gas prices in the Brainerd lakes area Thursday sat at $2.18 per gallon, according to the Minnesota Gas Buddy website. This puts it below the national average by 10 cents and it is nearly 50 cents cheaper than gas prices a year ago, which were an average of $2.64 in Minnesota. AAA reported gas prices are forecasted to be the lowest in 11 years.
With the influx of people to the area, Essentia Health tends to see an increase in urgent care and emergency room visits. Terry Wurtzberger, director of the emergency department at Essentia Health-St. Joseph's Medical Center, said an increase in patients is typical for this time of year.
Last weekend, the emergency department cared for 254 patients, which was 60 more patients than the previous weekend. Wurtzberger anticipates between Friday morning and Tuesday morning, more than 400 patients will receive treatment.
Although the increase can partly be attributed to a high number of visitors to the area, Wurtzberger noted many of the injuries treated are preventable. She recommended people remain vigilant about safety while enjoying the weekend. Recommendations include wearing seat belts, life jackets and helmets, staying hydrated and avoiding drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, and driving boats and vehicles at safe speeds.
Fireworks safety, particularly when it comes to children, is also important as part of Independence Day celebrations.
"Injuries the emergency team cares for during the Fourth of July holiday that are unique to the holiday weekend are watersports injuries that often include high speeds and fireworks injuries to fingers or eyes," a hospital news release stated.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation urges motorists to use extra caution while driving through highway work zones during the holiday weekend.
"We shut down most projects over the Fourth of July holiday, but there are still many work zones around the state that will affect travel," said Commissioner Charlie Zelle in a news release. "We ask drivers to pay attention in work zones, plan ahead and perhaps consider alternate routes. Check www.511mn.org to get advance information about road construction and detours."
A temporary signal will be in operation at Derksen Road on Highway 371 in Pequot Lakes as part of the bypass construction, and the County Highway 11 detour will remain in use.
The weather forecast from the National Weather Service in Duluth predicts mostly sunny to sunny skies with high temperatures between 72 and 81 degrees throughout the weekend.
"Friday through Saturday are going to be outstanding," said Greg Frosig, meteorologist. "It will be a little bit warmer each day."
Temperatures are right on track with the averages for this time of year. Frosig said the average Fourth of July temperature for the Brainerd area is 80 degrees. This year, the forecasted high is 81 degrees.
Although the forecast is generally great news for weekenders, Frosig warned there remains a slight chance of thunderstorms.
"We do have a slight chance of thunderstorms probably by mid- to late-afternoon on Monday," Frosig said.
10 safety tips for the Fourth of July
Ensure Independence Day weekend is filled with celebration and not regret with these 10 fire safety tips, from the Federal Emergency Management Agency Region V office in Chicago:
1. Be sure fireworks are legal in a location before using or buying them. In Minnesota, any type of firework that flies or explodes is illegal to sell, possess or use, unless by a state-certified operator, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.
2. Always have an adult supervise fireworks activities and never allow children to play with or ignite fireworks. Sparklers alone account for one-quarter of emergency room fireworks injuries.
3. If setting off fireworks, keep a bucket of water handy in case of malfunction or fire.
4. If fireworks malfunction, don't relight them. Douse and soak them with water, then throw them away.
5. Never ignite fireworks in a container, especially one that is glass or metal.
6. Use the grill well away from the home and deck railings, and out from under branches or overhangs.
7. Open a gas grill before lighting.
8. Periodically remove grease or fat buildup in trays below a gas or propane grill so it cannot be ignited.
9. Declare a 3-foot "kid- and pet-free zone" around the grill to keep them safe.
10. Avoid loose clothing that can catch fire when cooking on the grill.
Visit www.usfa.fema.gov to find more information and tips on being fire safe this Fourth of July. Download the FEMA app, available for Apple, Android and Blackberry mobile devices. The app includes home fire safety tips and monthly reminders users can set to test smoke alarms, yearly reminders to change smoke alarm batteries, and reminders to practice fire escape plans every six months.
CHELSEY PERKINS may be reached at 218-855-5874 or email@example.com . Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchChelsey .