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Crowds expected despite wet start to LI's July 4th weekend

Lifeguards Kristie Hirten and Carl Nowicki sit atop

Lifeguards Kristie Hirten and Carl Nowicki sit atop their lifeguard chair and keep watch over the waters at Jones Beach State Park on Wednesday afternoon, July 2, 2014. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

While the Fourth of July weekend's kickoff day could well be a washout for outdoor activities, area leisure experts say there will plenty of options for the two other days of the holiday weekend.

Getaway Thursday calls for hit-and-miss showers all day, with the best chance for any steady rain starting in the afternoon and running into the late evening, as the cold front approaches, said Brian Ciemnecki, a meteorologist in the National Weather Service's Upton office.

Ciemnecki said Friday is going to be "a pretty wet day," with the likelihood of heavier activity on the eastern portion of Long Island during the evening hours and overnight.

Saturday and Sunday, though, are expected to be sunny, with lows in the 80s, and "two out of three ain't bad," said George Gorman Jr., deputy regional director of state parks.

Still, Gorman said that beachgoers could be affected by very strong rip currents before and possibly after the storm passersby. A high-risk rip current warning was in effect for much of the South Shore, there were no swimming restrictions at state beaches, he said, but lifeguards will be evaluating conditions through the rest of the week and weekend and issuing restrictions as warranted.

On a July Fourth weekend with three good beach days, Jones Beach could see a total of from 350,000 to 400,000 visitors, but this year just 200,000 are expected for the weekend, he said, because of the predicted weather.

As for travelers to the Island, most are likely to get to their destinations by Thursday, before the rain, said Moke McGowan, president of the Long Island Convention & Visitors Bureau and Sports Commission. While vacationers may be "a little limited" on Friday activities outdoors, he said, "Saturday and Sunday look glorious."

People do have other options, though, for a rainy day Friday. With beaches off the agenda, "there's not a lot to do except shop and eat," said Mark Smith, which is no hardship for him as he owns four Hamptons eateries, including Nick & Toni's and Townline BBQ. He said he's anticipating a good weekend, even with the rain.

The Long Island Rail Road plans to increase service Thursday and run on a Saturday schedule on Friday in anticipation of Independence Day travelers, LIRR spokesman Salvatore Arena said.

On Thursday, trains will run on a regular schedule with an additional eight eastbound trains departing Penn Station between 2:08 and 3:48 p.m., including three on both the Babylon and Port Jefferson branches and one on both the Port Washington and Far Rockaway branches. Friday-only trains, including the Cannonball, a Penn Station express to Westhampton that then stops at Southampton, Bridgehampton, East Hampton and Montauk, will operate Thursday and will not run Friday.

On Friday, trains will run on a Saturday schedule.

Of course, those who do drive on Friday could face slick road conditions and "should pay close attention to weather forecasts," said Robert Sinclair Jr., media relations manager for AAA New York.

Nationally, about 41 million Americans, most of them driving, are projected to head out for trips of 50 miles or more from home during the Wednesday through Sunday time frame, according to AAA research. That's an increase of 1.9 percent from last year's Fourth of July weekend, the report said.

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