Alberto putting a damper on waterfront businesses along the coast

Published: May. 26, 2018 at 1:44 AM CDT|Updated: May. 26, 2018 at 9:06 AM CDT
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GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Memorial Day is typically one of Ship Island Excursions' biggest and busiest weekends of the year, as tourists and locals line up to soak in the Gulf Coast sunshine. But this holiday weekend, business is slow as Alberto approaches the Gulf Coast.

The National Park Service ordered the closure of West Ship Island as a precaution due to Sub-tropical Storm Alberto, which is building in the Gulf of Mexico. As a result, the Ship Island Excursions boats remain docked in Gulfport Harbor.

"It's devastating," said Cpt. Louis Skrmetta.

Skrmetta said 400 people had already purchased tickets for a trip to Ship Island over the Memorial Day weekend and he was expecting around 800 passengers each day. Now, no passengers will be going until Alberto passes and none of the Ship Island Excursions employees will be working.

"We're worried, it may even last, the worst of it into Monday and Tuesday," Skrmetta said. "So we're talking about a very bad scenario as far as weather. It's the perfect storm as far as ruining the tourism industry this weekend."

Across the harbor, it was the first day open for Edward Quinn and his Gulfport Marina Bait and Tackle Shop. He just spent $3,000 on a cooling system and was counting on the holiday weekend to be a big money maker.

"We put a lot of money into it and we were hoping it was going to come back tenfold and Memorial Day weekend would have been that," said Quinn.

Now if the storm escalates, in addition to losing business, Quinn would have to move his newly installed equipment and Skrmetta would have to take his vessels out of the harbor.

"Hopefully, we don't have to move our boats, but generally when you get winds over 40-50 miles per hour it can cause problems in the marina," said Skrmetta. "So you would have to move out of these marinas and hopefully that won't be the case here."

This is the second time in the last year weather has made a significant impact on the Ship Island ferry service.  Hurricane Nate caused the closure of Ship Island before the end of the scheduled season in October.

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