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Memorial Day fun with some caution

Before you hit the road, get on the water or hop a plane this Memorial Day weekend, keep these things in mind.

By MIKE BRASSFIELD
Published May 24, 2007


Before you hit the road, get on the water or hop a plane this Memorial Day weekend, keep these things in mind:

Weather

It should be gorgeous. Sunny, not humid and near 90 degrees, with a breeze to take the edge off. Only a 10 percent chance of scattered rain through Sunday, with maybe a 30 percent chance Monday. "If you've got outdoor plans, keep them. Beach, barbecue, picnic -- you're good to go," said National Weather Service meteorologist Barry Goldsmith. Enjoy it, as rainy season might finally arrive next week.

Gas prices

Don't expect any relief here. Analysts think it could be at least a month before prices drop. This week, the average cost of regular unleaded gas surged to nearly $3.20 nationally, $3.12 around Florida and $3.05 in the Tampa Bay area, according to AAA. Despite that, AAA predicts more than 1.6-million Floridians and a record 32-million Americans will drive at least 50 miles from home this weekend.

Boating

With winds out of the east at 10 to 15 knots, boaters might find Tampa Bay to be moderately choppy. But the waters off the beaches and in the Intracoastal should be nice. Expect 2- to 4-foot seas. The Florida Marine Patrol is warning of "vastly increased enforcement" on the waters this weekend, with an emphasis on life jackets because the state has had a record 35 boating deaths so far this year.

Highways

There will be no construction on interstates to slow traffic. But watch out for road closures due to wildfires. Interstate 10 and U.S. 441 in North Florida have been closing because of fires, which also have recently shut down stretches of highway all over the state. "As dry as Florida is, the wildfire situation changes every half-hour," said state Transportation Department spokeswoman Pamela Griffiths. Call 511 or check www.fl511.com ahead of time. Also, you should know that state troopers will be targeting seat belt violators.

Air travel

Leave early for Tampa International Airport, which should start getting busy today. An average of 268 flights will be leaving daily, up from 257 a year ago. "We view this as the kickoff to the summer travel season," said TIA spokeswoman Brenda Geoghagan. The airport is reminding people about its new remote economy garage and free cell phone lot, where drivers can wait for arriving passengers to call.