Evan Jones

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Virginia lawmakers begin a new General Assembly session Wednesday, and there is a new dynamic at work. Democrats now control both houses, and more than a third of the delegates and state senators are serving for the first time.  What seems clear is that with the Democratic-controlled legislature facing off with a Republican governor, Democrats will pass some bills they know Glenn Youngkin will surely veto. But WFIR Political Analyst Bob Denton says on the other hand, Republicans will introduce many bills they know have no chance of passage in the State Senate or House of Delegates. Denton says that it all adds up to a session likely to be partisan and chaotic, as WFIR’s Evan Jones reports:

Pickup trucks still lead the way in Roanoke-region used vehicle sales, but there are some noticeable shifts in consumer preferences. The numbers come from iSeecars.com, which tracks millions of new and used car sales each year. And for the year that just ended, it finds the Ford F-150 pickup remains at the top, followed, as usual, but the Chevy Silverado 1500. Executive Analyst Karl Brauer says what’s more notable is the Ram 1500 falling from its usual third spot, losing it to the Chevrolet Equinox, a compact crossover SUV.  iSeecars says among used vehicles, Nissan Altima rounds out the top five locally, and statewide, the Toyota Camry and Honda Civic hold top-three positions. As for all-electric vehicles, Brauer says EV’s face increasing consumer resistance. WFIR’s Evan Jones has more:

CLICK HERE for the full national study

From iSeecars.com:

These are the top 5 most popular used cars in Roanoke:

 

2023 Best-Selling Used Cars in Roanoke – iSeeCars Study

Rank

Vehicle

% of Total

1- to 5-Year-Old Used Car Sales

1

Ford F-150

3.1%

2

Chevrolet Silverado 1500

2.8%

3

Chevrolet Equinox

2.4%

4

Ram 1500

2.4%

5

Nissan Altima

2.0%

 

And these are the top 5 most popular used cars in Virginia:

 

2023 Best-Selling Used Cars in Virginia – iSeeCars Study

Rank

Vehicle

% of Total

1- to 5-Year-Old Used Car Sales

1

Ford F-150

2.6%

2

Toyota Camry

2.1%

3

Honda Civic

1.9%

4

Chevrolet Equinox

1.9%

5

Chevrolet Silverado 1500

1.9%

Photo: Wayne’s Imported Facebook

If you want your car serviced, many places offer you options of doing so on weekends, but one such business in Roanoke has decided that “less is more”. Wayne’s Imported Automotive has been around since 1974, and it has always been a Monday-through-Friday business. But shop foreman Darrel Booth says back in September, they figured they’d try something else — Monday through Thursday, 10 hours a day. It’s something that many auto service competitors are unlikely to follow because weekend availability is often a selling point. But Booth says Wayne’s and its customers have had no trouble adapting to a four-day week, and the workers love it — and when it comes to attracting and retaining new hires, he expects the promise of three-day weekends will offer a big advantage. WFIR’s Evan Jones has more:

Now that an affiliate of Publix supermarkets has purchased land in southwest Virginia, the next question is whether site work will begin in the new year. The grocery chain isn’t saying anything publicly yet, but as WFIR’s Evan Jones reports, whenever Publix arrives, it could help boost local efforts to attract other national retailers:

 

 

 

Here is the property’s preliminary site plan:

 

Image: Q99 Facebook

One of Roanoke’s most listened-to radio DJ’s will continue a Christmas morning tradition that has now reached its 35th year. Dick Daniels co-hosts one of the region’s perennially top-rated radio programs on Q99. The station could easily use automation these days to run Christmas morning programming, but that wasn’t the case in 1989, his first year at the station and newest announcer at the time. Now, 35 years later, he is still on the air live just hours after Santa arrives, joining many listeners as they share holiday stories and traditions and Christmas music favorites. As WFIR’s Evan Jones reports, Daniels says he never expected to be doing this for even a few years, let alone 35, but it is now among the most meaningful radio days each year.

Dick Daniels’ 35th annual live Christmas program airs Monday morning December 25 from 6:00 to 10:00 am on Q99.

Photo: HCA

The collective creativity of many LewisGale Medical Center employees has led to a $20,000 donation to Feeding Southwest Virginia. LewisGale’s parent company, HCA Healthcare, conducted a national sculpture contest among its many facilities to support local food drives — and LewisGale’s entry came in second, leading to the HCA contribution. Feeding Southwest Virginia President Pamela Irvine says the grant is especially appropriate coming from a health system:

The LewisGale workers used about 800 vegetable cans and 150 boxes of stuffing to create their eight-foot-tall, 10-foot-wide display that looks like a big Etch-a-Sketch. It weighs more than 800 pounds.

NEWS RELEASE: LewisGale Medical Center will award Feeding Southwest Virginia a $20,000 grant to fight food insecurity. Hospital colleagues earned the gift by winning second place in a national food drive sculpture contest hosted by hospital parent company, HCA Healthcare. 

For the “Healthy Food for Healthier Tomorrows Food & Nutrition Drive” contest, LewisGale Medical Center constructed a 10-foot wide by eight-foot tall “Etch A Sketch” out of about 800 canned vegetables and nearly 150 boxes of stuffing. The structure weighs more than 800 pounds. 

 Participating employees and hospital leaders will meet with Feeding Southwest Virginia at its facility for a check presentation and to unload the food donations from the structure and other collection boxes. 

“Our colleagues continually show up for our patients, their families, and our communities,” said Amy Woods, chief nursing officer. “We are elated to make a significant donation to such a worthy organization that helps our friends, family, and neighbors.”

 

The association representing Virginia’s hospitals has unveiled a new website designed to help you know what health care consumer laws are on the books — and best understand pricing before any scheduled hospital procedures. The Virginia Hospital and Health Care Association started with a statewide poll, one that found that most Virginians are unaware of state and federal health care rights laws,  some protecting patients from things like surprise medical bills, others promoting transparency in health care cost information. Then it conducted focus group session in three cities, one of them in Roanoke, where most people expressed similar unfamiliarity. That has led to the “Control Your Care” campaign, the main goals being to explain those state and federal laws in plain English and provide helpful health care cost information. WFIR’s Evan Jones has more:

 

CLICK HERE for the Control Your Care website

MGN

Holiday travel in Virginia is expect to approach some of the highest levels ever seen, and it doesn’t matter much what kind of transportation is involved. For the millions of Virginians who will travel by road, you will be paying some of the lowest gasoline prices in more than two years. More from WFIR’s Evan Jones:

AAA expects holiday air travel will set records, so plan accordingly — and cruises are way ahead of any previous numbers.

 

 

 

Here is the full AAA news release:

NEARLY 3.2 MILLION VIRGINIANS EXPECTED TO TRAVEL OVER YEAR-END HOLIDAY PERIOD

Ninety Percent of Virginia Travelers Will Hit the Road as Gas Drops Near Lowest Price in More Than Two Years
RICHMOND, VA (December 18, 2023) – There won’t be any other sleighs or tiny flying reindeer, but Santa is likely to find some busy skies as he makes his annual trip this holiday season.  AAA estimates nearly 3.2 million Virginians will travel 50 miles or more away from home over the 10-day, end-of-year holiday travel period.  That’s an increase of 2 percent compared to the 2022 travel volume but about 3 percent shy of the holiday period in 2019.  It’ll mark the second highest year-end travel forecast for Virginia travelers since AAA began tracking in 2000. “AAA has seen a strong demand for travel throughout the year, and the end-of-year holiday is no exception,” said Morgan Dean, spokesperson for AAA Mid-Atlantic in Virginia. “Whether people are hitting the road to share the holiday with friends and family, or planning a more elaborate vacation, there is little discouraging them from getting away.”
Gas Prices ‘Sleighing’ It At The Pump
Ninety percent of Virginia travelers will be on the road this holiday season, or about 2.85 million people. That’s more than 1% higher than last year, but about 4% less than the number of travelers during the holidays in 2019. “It’s not under the tree, but drivers are finding a gift in the form of lower gas prices this holiday season,” add Dean.  Gas prices have been on the decline throughout the fall and Virginia drivers are finding some of the cheapest gas prices they’ve seen in more than two years.  Virginia’s average of $2.96 (12/17) is down 8 cents in a week, down 17 cents in a month and is six cents cheaper than one year ago. The state average has dropped within a penny of prices we haven’t seen at the pump since August of 2021. Tepid demand and a low cost for oil, which is hovering around $70 per barrel are factors in the low prices. Drivers can find current gas prices along their route, and plan out stops where prices are the cheapest using the AAA TripTik Travel planner.
Saturday December 23rd and Thursday, December 28th are expected to be the most congested days on the roads. Drivers looking to avoid traffic should leave in the morning on those days as traffic is expected to building up during the afternoon.  December 30th, as some travelers depart for their New Year’s destinations, is also expected to see higher than usual traffic for a Saturday.
Away They All Flew like The Down Of A Thistle
As has been the theme during holidays throughout 2023, the airports and the skies are expected to be busy this holiday season.  Nationally, the airports are expected to be the busiest they’ve ever been. More than 178,000 Virginians are expected to fly to their holiday destinations. That’s up more than 4% from last year, up 2% over 2019 and the highest number of Virginia air travelers at the year-end in 19 years.
I Saw Three Ships Come Sailing In
While making up only 5% of the total travel volume, the other category is seeing in the biggest increase in travelers compared to last year and to pre-covid numbers. Much of that increase is thanks to the return to cruising. Nearly 155,000 Virginians are predicted to travel by bus, train, or cruise for the holidays, up 15% over last year and up 13% over the 2019 numbers. It would be the second busiest year-end holiday Virginia has seen in the other category behind only the 2008 travel numbers.
“Many are opting to celebrate the holidays on the high seas, trading the snow, fraser fir, and Christmas lights for sand, palm trees and tropical sunsets.” adds Dean.
Virginia Travel Numbers Chart 12.18.pngAAA’s National Travel Projections
Nationally, AAA forecasts:
  • More than 115 million people are predicted to travel 50 miles or more from home this year for the holidays. That’s an increase of two percent from last year and the second highest year-end travel forecast since AAA began tracking in 2000.
  • Nearly 104 million Americans are forecast to drive to their holiday destinations.
  • 7.5 million Americans are predicted to fly this year, meaning airports will be the busiest they’ve ever been over the Christmas and New Year’s travel period.
  • AAA estimates travel by bus, rail, and cruise ship will rise to more than 4 million this holiday season, a 10% increase from last year and 4% higher than 2019.
Be Ready – Busy Holiday Anticipated for AAA; Drivers Reminded of ‘Move Over ‘Laws
As you get ready for the holidays, whether you’re traveling or staying closer to home, AAA encourages drivers to ‘be ready’ for winter weather as well. With a record number of older vehicles on our roadways, colder temperatures are sure to take a toll. AAA Members can take comfort in knowing that help is only a phone call away. “We typically see a high volume of calls for dead batteries, particularly as temperatures drop,” says Dean.  “No one wants to have their holiday plans derailed by a breakdown and yet AAA expects to respond to hundreds of thousands of Emergency Roadside Service calls over the year-end travel period.”
AAA rescued nearly 920,000 motorists nationwide over the year-end holiday travel period last year, with nearly 16,000 in Virginia alone.  Drivers are reminded to always Slow Down and Move Over for AAA Roadside Assistance vehicles, tow trucks, police, and other emergency, first responders. As of July 1st of this year, Virginia’s ‘Move Over’ law, requires drivers to also slow down, and if possible, move over, for any stationary vehicle displaying hazard lights, flares or emergency signs.  “Holiday travel provides ample opportunity for distraction. AAA is urging everyone to slow down and pay attention so you can get where you are going safely and without incident,” said Dean.
AAA Offers the following Tips for Battery Care and Service
Check your tires – At minimum, AAA recommends checking your tires once a month and before taking a long trip. Pay special attention to both tire inflation pressure and tread depth. Be sure to inspect all four tires and the spare tire if your vehicle has one.
Check your battery – The average car battery life is typically 3-5 years. If your engine is slow to start and/or your lights are dim, your battery may be nearing the end of its life. Visual signs of damage or corrosion are other indicators of deterioration. Book a free vehicle health check at any AAA Car Care, Insurance and Travel Center in the area or make an appointment at any AAA Approved Auto Repair location. Testing equipment today can often give you a good sense of how much life a battery has left.
Listen to and feel the brakes – If you hear a grinding sound or feel a vibration when applying the brakes, take your vehicle to an auto repair shop for a brake inspection.
Replace wiper blades and replenish windshield cleaner – Rubber wiper blades naturally deteriorate over time. Most manufacturers recommend replacing them every 6-12 months. If wipers streak or fail to clear the windshield thoroughly, replace the blades.
Top off engine oil and other fluids – Check that engine oil, coolant and brake, transmission and power steering fluids are at the correct levels for safe vehicle operation. When adding fluids, use products that meet the specifications listed in the owner’s manual.
Replenish emergency kit supplies – AAA recommends keeping a well-stocked, winter emergency kit in your vehicle. The kit should include the following: 
  • Abrasive material (sand, salt, cat litter) or traction mats
  • Snow shovel
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Window washer solvent
  • Ice scraper with brush
  • Jumper cables
  • Extra warm clothing (gloves, hats, scarves), and blankets
  • Warning devices (flares or triangles)
  • Drinking water and non-perishable snacks for both human and pet passengers
  • First-aid kit
  • Basic toolkit (screwdrivers, pliers, adjustable wrench)
  • Mobile phone, charger and power bank
AAA Emergency kits are available at AAA retail locations or at AAA.com.

 

 

 

 

 

If you have been waiting for used car prices to come down before considering a purchase, the trend is your friend — at least for now. Average Roanoke-area prices are down from a year ago, reversing the pandemic-era pattern. More from WFIR’s Evan Jones:

From iSeeCars:

For used cars in Roanoke, the iSeeCars analysis found:

  • Used car prices changed by -4.0% between Oct. 2022 and Oct. 2023.

  • The average used car price is $29,656, compared to $30,881 last October.

 

Used Car Price Comparison by Segment (YoY) – iSeeCars Study

Segment

YoY Price Comparison

Average Price October 2023

Average Price October 2022

All Used Cars, Roanoke-Lynchburg, VA

-4.0%

$29,656

$30,881

All Used Cars, National Average

-5.1%

$30,972

$32,627

EVs

-33.7%

$34,994

$52,821

Hybrids

-9.6%

$31,511

$34,850

The study also identified which used cars had the biggest 12-month price drops in Roanoke:

Top 5 Used Cars With the Biggest Price Drops in Roanoke-Lynchburg, VA – iSeeCars Study

Rank

Model

YoY Price Comparison

Average Price October 2023

Average Price October 2022

1

Hyundai Tucson

-21.1%

$20,311

$25,743

2

Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

-19.8%

$19,337

$24,098

3

Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

-15.9%

$30,458

$36,216

4

Jeep Grand Cherokee

-15.0%

$31,496

$37,041

5

Dodge Durango

-13.6%

$31,986

$37,017

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