Memorial Day weekend kicks off unofficial start of Long Island summer

Sophie and Russel Plotnitzky show this patriotism as Sophie and Russel Plotnitzky show this patriotism as they cheer with flags in hand during the East Norwich Memorial Day Parade. (May 28, 2012) Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

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With a harsh, snowy winter in the rearview mirror, the state park beaches are ready, the annual Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach is set to take flight, and the weather is expected to get progressively warmer this Memorial Day weekend on Long Island.

An estimated 36.1 million Americans, up from last year's 35.5 million, are planning holiday weekend getaways of 50 miles or more from home, according to an annual AAA travel forecast. That's the second highest volume of travelers since 2000, AAA said.

As for visitors to Long Island, "we have been anticipating an excellent Memorial Day weekend," said R. Moke McGowan, president of the Long Island Convention & Visitors Bureau and Sports Commission.

For this unofficial kickoff to summer, look for a "fairly decent" weekend, said David Stark, National Weather Service meteorologist, with Sunday and Monday possibly bringing "a little introduction of a more summer feel."

Temperatures on Friday "will struggle" to rise above the mid-60s for most of the Island, low-60s near the shore where there'll be light winds, Stark said. Thanks to a weak area of low pressure, there's a 50 percent chance of "hit or miss" showers, he said.

On Saturday, much of the Island is forecast to see highs in the upper 60s to low 70s, maybe mid-to-upper 60s on the East End, South Shore and barrier islands, he said, with partly to mostly cloudy skies.

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Highs of 71 to 75 are expected Sunday for most of the Island, upper 60s on the East End, and upper 60s to low 70s along the coast, with "less in the way of cloud cover," Stark said. There is a chance for a brief passing afternoon shower.

Trends are indicating temperatures in the mid-70s to 80 range on Monday for much of the Island and lower 70s for the forks and coast, he said. No rain is expected on Memorial Day.

"We suffered through a wicked winter, and we deserve some nice weather," said Bill Korbel, meteorologist with News 12 Long Island. "If it comes on a long weekend, so much the better."

Organizers of the two-day Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach will have their eyes on the skies.

Hopes are for about 150,000 to 200,000 attendees a day, which is "good attendance and not overwhelming," said George Gorman, deputy regional director of state parks.

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Despite the harsh winter, "we had no significant erosion to the beaches," which "are in great condition," Gorman said. Robert Moses experienced some erosion that was not significant, and 300,000 cubic yards of sand were placed "on the beach south of the Robert Moses Water Tower for additional protection," he said.

Lifeguards go on duty this weekend at Jones Beach, Robert Moses, Sunken Meadow, and Hither Hills in Montauk.

As for getting there, state Department of Transportation data show that for the past two years Saturday has been the long weekend's heaviest day for traffic coming to and leaving Long Island. Last year's eastbound traffic count for the Long Island Expressway, measured near the Nassau-Queens border, was 92,856, with westbound, 90,155. In 2012, the Saturday eastbound count was 98,162, and westbound, 92,818.

The Long Island Rail Road is adding eight eastbound early-afternoon trains on four branches Friday, departing Penn Station in the 2:08 to 3:48 p.m. range, the MTA said. On Monday, Memorial Day, trains will operate on a Sunday schedule.

As for air travel, the Port Authority said it's expecting a 3.4 percent increase in this weekend's passengers over last year, with about 728,800 traveling though Kennedy and 345,000 through LaGuardia airports.

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