Tourists Change Plans For Hurricane

Despite the storm threat, Friday's weather was picture perfect along the coast. Tourists enjoyed the South Mississippi sunshine, while keeping a worried eye on the horizon.

The threat from Hurricane Dennis has many visitors changing their vacation plans or making an early exit.

"We had planned a weekend, but it looks like it's going to be a short one," said Travis Girour, while setting up his beach umbrella.

Visiting families from Morgan City, Louisiana staked out a spot on the beach near the Biloxi lighthouse. The visitors welcomed the calm before the storm.

"Weather is beautiful today. But it's definitely going to change within the next couple," said Peggy Girour.

They'll enjoy what time they can in the sand and surf before packing up and heading home.

"Spend the day at the beach, take the kids to a few amusement parks around here and just enjoy it and beat the traffic before tomorrow morning," said Travis Girour.

A visit from Dennis could be a losing bet for coast casinos. The gaming commission will decide if and when to shutdown.

"We do everything we can to compensate out employees when it comes to that. But like any retail business and all retail businesses on the coast, a day that's lost is lost forever," said Palace Casino Resort manager, Keith Crosby.

Friday afternoon the Palace Casino Hotel was at 70 percent occupancy. But as time passes and this storm approaches, cancellations and early departures are expected to increase dramatically.

"We're being a little smart I believe," said  tourist Joanne Wilhelm, as she loaded up the car.

She wanted to stay longer. Dennis dictated otherwise.

"We were going to stay through tomorrow. But we have to drive up Interstate 65. So, we thought we'd get out before a lot of the traffic," she explained.

The Morgan City visitors appreciate the early exit. They understand the seasonal threat of tropical weather.

"When you live along the Gulf Coast, that's to be expected," said Travis Girour.

The coast economy depends on visitors. More than 36,000 people are employed by the tourism industry in South Mississippi.