Grab the sunblock and beach towels. Forecasters are predicting gorgeous weather for Memorial Day weekend in Tampa Bay.
Temperatures in the mid to high 80s will combine with a breeze and low humidity through Monday, said Mike Clay, chief meteorologist for Bay News 9. The conditions may verge on ideal, especially nice even for the Gulf Coast in the weeks before summer.
"Usually, there's some thunderstorms by this time of year, but not this year," Clay said.
That means people will probably flock to the gulf in droves, be it in beach chairs or on boats.
Water temperatures are about average, approximately 80 degrees, Clay said.
Businesses along the beaches of Pinellas County are expecting tens of thousands of visitors, said Clyde Smith, chairman of the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce board.
Hotels from Clearwater to Pass-a-Grille are just about completely booked, said Smith, who is also general manager at the Bilmar Beach Resort in Treasure Island. He advised visitors to think about the heavy traffic so that they can find parking easily.
"Show up early and get a spot," Smith said.
At the Hurricane Seafood Restaurant in Pass-a-Grille, general manager Rick Falkenstein said the staff has 600 pounds of fresh grouper filets on hand and expects to get an additional 200 pounds before the holiday weekend is over. He said it is the best weather forecast for Memorial Day in recent memory, and he expects record crowds.
"There's no threat of showers. There's no red tide. The water temperature is absolutely awesome," Falkenstein said.
The weekend also marks the unofficial start of boating season, said Karen Parker, spokeswoman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Boaters should keep a lookout for others on the water and should make sure to have required safety equipment such as life vests on board, she said.
Commission officers will be out each day to enforce safety regulations and to check for underage drinking and impaired operators.
The breeze is expected to pick up Saturday night and may reach 20 knots, Clay said, so boaters should also be mindful of the winds.
"Just keep a close ear to the weather radio, and if conditions change, which they can change drastically, go back in," Parker said. "Don't take a chance."
Zachary T. Sampson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8804. Twitter: @zacksampson.