More reasons to celebrate

Nice weather, lower gas prices predicted

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Motorists drive over the crest of Fourth of July Pass on Interstate 90 on Friday. Both the weather forecast and gas prices appear favorable for holiday travelers.

Need some lifter-uppers if you believe June's record rain robbed some of your summer?

Maybe a predicted pleasant, dry Fourth of July and declining gas prices will help.

"We may have a little rain (tonight) and into Sunday, but after that it looks pretty dry as high pressure will build in," said Cliff Harris, Coeur d'Alene climatologist. "We'll hit a trend of no rain for seven to 10 days."

Harris predicts the high on Wednesday, the Fourth of July, will be between 77 and 81.

"There's a very slight chance of precipitation - less than 10 percent," Harris said. "The weather looks good for us. But many areas east of the Rockies will have to cancel their fireworks because it's so hot and dry."

Local gas prices are dropping, although not nearly at the same rate as most parts of the country.

The average was $3.61 on Friday in both Coeur d'Alene and Post Falls - 6 cents lower than the state average, but 26 cents higher than the national average, according to AAA. Coeur d'Alene's average is 19 cents lower than it was a month ago and Post Falls' is 27 cents lower. The local averages are a penny more than they were a year ago.

"Tight West Coast supplies a month ago raised Washington and Oregon prices to the $4.25 level, but prices have dropped 55 cents or more in those markets as the Cherry Point refinery in Washington state has come back on line," said Dave Carlson, AAA spokesman. "North Idaho's prices are influenced by the supplies of gasoline it receives from Washington, so the drop in prices in the past month looks more dramatic, but Idaho's prices are among the highest in the country."

Following the lead of sharply lower oil prices - Thursday's West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures price was $77.69 - gas prices here and elsewhere are still playing catch up, Carlson said.

"That means July 4 prices should be below where they are now," he said.

The national average, which peaked at $3.94 a gallon in early April, has dropped 59 cents since then. That causes even the most casual Idaho observers to ask what gives, Carlson said.

It's a reasonable question, Carlson said, because it presumes that rising and falling oil prices affect the oil acquisition price refineries pay for their raw product.

"If the acquisition price is lower now than it was several months ago, how can Idaho's pump prices not reflect that movement?" Carlson asks.

"We speculate that refinery output and/or distribution functions are constrained or spread thin and that limited regional supplies raise the price retailers and their customers must pay."

But he concedes consumers in Idaho's geographically isolated gas market never know the particulars.

AAA expects auto travel for the Fourth of July for Idaho and other Mountain states to increase 3.6 percent compared to the national average of 4 percent.

"Economic drivers, including fuel prices, could have something to do with the smaller regional increase," Carlson said. "Our surveys suggest that a sizable number of travelers will look for ways to economize, taking advantage of lakeside and beach adventures, fishing and sightseeing."

Gas price averages

Friday Month Year

ago ago

Cd'A $3.61 $3.80 $3.60

Post Falls $3.61 $3.88 $3.60

Spokane $3.72 $3.96 $3.74

Idaho $3.67 $3.81 $3.54

U.S. $3.35 $3.63 $3.54

SOURCE: AAA

Dock attendant Jake Donahue lends a hand to Scott Reid, of Coeur d'Alene, as he removes the nozzle from the gas tank of his boat after filling up Tuesday before taking to the waters of Lake Coeur d'Alene.

 

Kyle Weskamp of Spokane fills up at the Tesoro gas station on Sherman Avenue on his way to Fernan Lake, where he plans to stay through the Fourth of July.

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