State News

N.C. beaches draw Memorial Day vacationers

North Carolina's beaches are expected to draw thousands this weekend, and vacationers will enjoy summer-like weather – including a good chance of thunderstorms late Friday.

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WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, N.C. — North Carolina's beaches are expected to draw thousands this weekend, and vacationers will enjoy summer-like weather – including a good chance of thunderstorms late Friday.

AAA Carolinas estimates that between 200,000 and 250,000 North Carolinians will go to the beach this weekend, up 3 to 4 percent from last year.

"It's gorgeous. The breeze is just right," said Anna Mowry, of Raleigh, who came to Wrightsville Beach on Friday to visit her parents.

WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel said a boundary line running from Roxboro through Raleigh to Goldsboro and Morehead City could cause storms to develop rapidly Friday night. Storms would be scattered across central and eastern North Carolina on Saturday, he said, but Sunday and Monday would be sunny, hot and humid.

"(Saturday) will not be a washout by any stretch, and Sunday and Memorial Day are looking increasingly nice," Fishel said. "The holiday weekend is not shaping up all that bad."

High temperatures will be around 80 on Saturday and around 90 on Sunday and Monday. Overnight lows will be in the upper 60s.

Altogether, 775,000 North Carolinians will be driving for vacations this weekend, AAA estimates.

Club representatives said that many travelers are taking advantage of last-minute vacation deals. Cape Hatteras got some welcome attention Friday when it was ranked as the No. 4 beach in the country.

"People are looking for a greater value these days," said Lee Nettles, managing director of the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau. Cape Hatteras's national ranking "gives vacationers the assurance their travel dollars are being well spent."

More people driving to N.C. coast

Some vacationers worried about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico are also switching their reservations to the Outer Banks, Nettles said.

"We have gotten some of those calls, people that are just still trying to have their family vacations," he said.

Alexander Melo brought his family to Wrightsville Beach from New York.

"I think there's more people coming to the beach," Melo said.

Nancy Croll, who works at a Wrightsville Beach store, predicted a blockbuster summer tourist season because people are feeling better about the economy and are ready to soak up some sunshine and relieve their stress.

"I can already see it coming," Croll said. "People are ready to come out. The winter has been long."

Throughout the state, drivers are also being encouraged to vacation by lower gas prices, AAA representatives said. The cost of a gallon of regular, unleaded gasoline has fallen 13 cents since May 7 and about $1.20 since last Memorial Day weekend, when it was close to $4 a gallon.

"I think that that definitely has to do with people wanting to drive a little bit farther," Mowry said. "It should be fun, but hard to find a parking space."

"I think people are trying to save money, so they are actually driving more places rather than flying out," Melo said.

Vacationers who chose to stay closer to home also got some good news: The Beaverdam and Sandling beaches at Falls Lake were reopened Friday, three days after they were closed because of elevated levels of bacteria. New tests for bacteria came back negative, Wake County officials said.

"You can never go wrong when you are near water," said Ayesha Langley, of Durham, who took a day trip so her 18-month-old toddler, Sanaa, could see the ocean for the first time. "We are just going to head back home and find something else to do (Saturday)."

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Erin Hartness, Reporter
Richard Adkins, Photographer
Kelly Hinchcliffe, Web Editor
Anne Johnson, Web Editor
Matthew Burns, Web Editor

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