By Alex Lippa
---- — State officials are expecting swarms of tourists to flow into the state to celebrate the Fourth of July.
“It’s always been our busiest weekend of the year,” said Tai Freligh, communications manager for the New Hampshire Division of Travel and Tourism. “It’s the kickoff to our summer season.”
Freligh said 40 percent of spending and visitation to New Hampshire occurs during the summer. The state expects 860,000 people to come to New Hampshire between Thursday and Monday. And, state officials expect them to spend $128 million while they’re here.
With that many people coming into state, N.H. State Police are prepared for traffic delays starting tomorrow.
“We’ll have extra patrols out throughout the weekend,” State Police Capt. John LeLacheur said. “We are anticipating a lot of travel as people head out toward Maine and the North Country.”
LeLacheur said he didn’t see unusual amounts of traffic this past weekend.
“There was heavy traffic southbound, but that’s normal for a Sunday afternoon,” he said.
Eleanor Baker, regional manager for public affairs at AAA Southern New England, said many people are taking theweek off.
“We’ve noticed that the commuting traffic is much lighter this week than normal,” she said.
Baker said stable gas prices should allow for heavy travel.
“Gas prices aren’t in a crunch,” she said. “It won’t prevent people from traveling or give people anxiety about traveling.”
Gas prices are averaging $3.44 a gallon in New Hampshire, according to GasBuddy.com. That number is 9 cents a gallon higher than this time last year.
At the Mobil on Nashua Road in Londonderry, many said they have a long weekend already planned.
Danay Steadman of Hampstead is taking summer classes and the holiday means she will have Thursday and Friday off.
“I don’t know if I’m going to deal with the traffic,” she said. “I might just stay here, since it’s nice to have a long weekend.”
But not everyone will be staying put.
“We are going up to Old Orchard Beach in Maine,” said Sandy Manning of Hudson. “My husband will leave (today) and I’m going to leave (tomorrow).”
Manning said she is taking tomorrow off and doesn’t work Fridays, allowing her to have a long weekend.
“It’s better to have the holiday on Thursday instead of Wednesday,” Manning said. “I just hope the weather is nice and no more rain.”
She may be in luck.
James Brown, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, Maine, said to expect hot and humid temperatures Thursday through Sunday.
“We should be reaching the high 80s pretty much every day,” he said. “There’s just a low chance of rain.”
The state is expecting this summer to be much busier summer than last year.
Freligh said he expects 13.6 million out-of-state visitors will come this summer, which is 1 percent higher than last year. They are expected to spend $1.9 billion, 2 percent more than last year.