Traffic in the RV parks and campgrounds in Yuma, Ariz., is getting a bit more congested with sightings of license plates from Washington, Oregon and other points north — and colder — than Yuma.

They’re the first harbinger of the annual influx of refugees from northern climes looking for a place in the sun away from snow and freezing temperatures back home, according to the Yuma Sun.

There aren’t many of them, mostly regulars, said Lois Galyardt, assistant manager of Cactus Garden RV Resort and Desert Paradise.

But as the temperature cools just a touch, the phone calls for reservations are heating up, she and other recreational vehicle park managers agree.

After all, it’s raining in Oregon and snowing in Colorado, noted Dean Buford at Caravan Oasis RV Resort.

“It’s looking like it will be a good winter visitor season. Reservations are doing well. I had four or five calls just this morning,” he said Thursday.

He’s even having some people come in. “I had five this week, most of them from Oregon where it’s raining.”

As the temperature drops in Washington, Idaho, Montana and Canada, the annual migration will pick up, he predicted.

Things were quiet last week at Windhaven RV Park with just a handful of year-round and overnight people, but manager JoAnn Decker is bracing for the winter season she figures will start this week.

“They’ll trickle in until November,” she said, “then come in fairly steadily in November. It slows in December, then January – look out.”

The phone has been busy, though, with many of those callers apparently new to the concept of winter in Yuma, she said. “I’ve gotten a lot of reservations. As far as I can tell, they’re up.”

Calls are coming in to the Yuma County Chamber of Commerce, too, said Ken Rosevear, executive director.

“As a chamber we think the same numbers will come but we think they will be more conservative in their spending. They’ll be a mirror of the economy. Their retirement income likely is down. I would rather be here stewing about my finances than sitting in a bad place stewing about them.”

Others are more optimistic, based at least in part on the Canadian exchange rate – at 92 cents on the U.S. dollar last week.

“The Canadian dollar is back,” Buford said. “That should help.”

RV dealers and Foothills-area real estate agents are banking on it.

“The Canadians are big customers,” said Leo Ortega, a salesman at RV World.

“We expect we’ll see a good season,” he said. “In talking to the parks, they’re pretty well booked. We see all the trends and so far they’re looking good.”

Foothills-area Realtor Donna White also is pleased with winter visitor activity this early in the season.

“They’re coming back earlier — absolutely,” she said, adding that she’s seeing people who didn’t come last year because of the election, the poor economy and the real estate market downturn.

She said she considers the winter visitor season to run from Oct. 1 to April 1, but started seeing them a couple of weeks ago even with the temperatures here still above 100 degrees.

“And they’re looking to buy,” White said. “A number of properties in the Foothills are under contract. They’re snowbird properties like mobile homes and condos. We’re still seeing sales in the $400,000 range so people still have money. And people have really been looking at lots where they can park their RV or place a home. They want flexibility.”

Another sure sign that the winter visitor is under way, White said, is that restaurants that closed for the summer are reopening and businesses that slowed down are gearing up again.

Paul Shedal of Yumastats sees the picture another way.

He’s predicting the winter visitor population will be down about 2,500 from last year’s peak of 83,000 in mid-February.

Shedal said he’s basing that prediction on his survey of 425 homes in the Foothills where he saw 36 foreclosed or abandoned properties since last year.