Visiting the Lowcountry for Memorial Day? 3 things to know

If you’re visiting the Lowcountry for the Memorial Day weekend, take all the money you’ll save on gas and buy a raincoat.

Yes, there’s a low-pressure system that’s trying to develop out in the Atlantic.

And, yes, Beaufort County could see some rain during the holiday weekend.

But — but! — you’re likely to save over 30 cents per gallon over last year’s prices if current fuel prices hold. And, regardless of the weather, local hotel and resort owners say they aren’t seeing any shortage of reservations.

If you’re still making plans, act quick — rooms are filling up. Take advantage of the cheap gas. Bring a poncho.

Here’s hoping you won’t need it, and here’s three things to know as you plan your trip.

Wet, muggy ... and tropical?

“Unfortunately, it looks relatively wet,” said Jonathan Lamb, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Charleston.

The National Hurricane Center, Lamb said, is monitoring a low-pressure system that, as of Wednesday morning, was out over the northeastern Bahamas. That system could start to affect Beaufort County by Saturday afternoon, he said, and it could remain nearby, off the coast, until Monday.

It could also become a tropical system.

“Depending on how strong it ends up getting, the tides could be higher than normal, which could affect some people out on the beach,” he said. “If it strengthens considerably, there could be some strong winds associated with it.”

Currently, there’s a 40 percent chance of rain from Saturday to Monday, he said. Temperatures will reach the lower 80s and bottom out in the lower 70s.

“It’s going to feel more like an early summertime pattern,” Lamb said, referring to the increased humidity he’s forecasting. “It’s going to be relatively muggy.”

Gas prices rising but better than last year

It cost just under $2.08, on average, for a gallon of regular unleaded gas in the Palmetto State as of Wednesday, according to the American Automobile Association’s website.

On Memorial Day 2015 in South Carolina, you would have paid about $2.42, according to Tiffany Wright, spokesperson for AAA of the Carolinas.

“It’s hard to say what they’ll be in the next couple of days,” Wright said. “I can tell you this: We are on the upward swing. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re up four to five cents as we get into the weekend.”

AAA estimates over 485,000 South Carolina motorists will travel during the holiday weekend — that’s the highest Memorial Day travel volume on record.

Stay a little longer

So what if the holiday weekend’s a washout; some visitors might extend their stays into the following week.

“The average stay is six days,” said Charlie Clark of the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce. “So, while some will come for Memorial Day, others will come for the week.”

Clark said the chamber hasn’t received calls of concern about the weather, and that Memorial Day is “traditionally a sold-out weekend” for the island’s 6,000 homes and villas and 3,000 hotel rooms.

“We’ve seen no change in our booking pattern for the weekend,” said Gail Wargo of the Westin Hilton Head Island Resort and Spa. “The resort is almost entirely full. We expect to be full for the weekend. And as you and I both know, the weather forecast can change on a dime.”

Teresa Manzolillo, of the Hilton Head Marriott Resort and Spa, said the hotel’s 513 rooms were sold out for Friday and Saturday. She anticipates to be sold out Thursday, and only about 70 rooms are left for Sunday.

About 80 percent of visitors to the island arrive by car, Clark said, highlighting a AAA news release that touts the lowest pre-Memorial Day gas prices in the Carolinas in more than a decade. That bodes well for the holiday weekend, she said.

So, too, does a strong first quarter in 2016, Clark said, and a record-setting tourism season last year, when over 2.6 million people visited the island.

Robb Wells, of the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce, said “everybody is close to booked.”

“We anticipate a packed weekend with the annual Gullah Festival,” he said.

The festival, in its 30th year, begins Friday.

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