Gulf Coast poised for busy weekend despite Isaac

Associated Press
Thomas Wilson checks mooring lines as another band of heavy rain and wind from Isaac hits Bayou La Batre, Ala. on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012.  Life is returning to normal on Alabama's coast after a brush with  Isaac, but not completely. Schools in Mobile and Baldwin counties resume class Thursday after a three-day break for the storm, and seas are expected to continue falling as remnants of Isaac slowly move off the coast. Authorities say they're still not sure what the storm did to Dauphin Island's western end, where waves typically break under elevated homes and roads flood easily. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

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MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — Carloads of tourists headed to Alabama's coast Friday at the start of the Labor Day holiday, a relief to communities where some feared Hurricane Isaac might hurt business on the season's last big weekend.

In Mobile, vehicles with tags from as far away as Louisiana and Texas were parked at the battleship U.S.S. Alabama park and museum. Down the road, seafood restaurants were full for lunch after being close as long as four days because of the storm.

Tomoki Sato and his wife Ryoko, who are originally from Japan but now live in Tupelo, Miss., drove south for the weekend despite concerns over the storm.

"We are going to Pensacola (Fla.) and Destin (Fla.) from here," she said, taking a photo on the deck of the World War II ship. "I was worried the water would still be stirred up."

At the state's main beaches in Baldwin County, spokeswoman Emily Gonzalez of Kaiser Real Estate said only a few people had canceled reservations, and some had called to extend their stay or secure a late rental because their power was out in Mississippi and Louisiana because of Isaac.

"We expect to be a little above last year," she said. "Our phones are ringing off the hook."

Alabama's coast took only a glancing blow from Isaac, which caused more problems in Louisiana and Mississippi. Damage was minimal in beach cities like Gulf Shores and Orange Beach.

The state's one trouble spot is the western tip of Dauphin Island, where scores of rental houses are located. The area remains closed, with sand over roads and the utilities out, but Mayor Jeff Collier said the rest of the island would be more or less normal despite Isaac.

"For Labor Day weekend the sun is out and the public beaches are open. We want folks to come, but we want them to know they cannot access the west end. It's going to take multiple days before that's going to happen," Collier said.

Nothing was closed in Baldwin County, where there are more than 16,300 condominiums, homes and hotel rooms available for rent.

"We've been working to get that word out," said Kim Chapman of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism.

The state's beaches account for about a third of all tourism spending in Alabama.

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