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Severe Storms Make For Miserable Memorial Day Commute For Tri-State Area Residents

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — People all across the Tri-State marked the unofficial start of summer by hitting the roads this Memorial Day weekend — and severe storms Friday evening made for a miserable commute.

Thirty-six million Americans are traveling this holiday weekend and eight in 10 are taking the car, Robert Sinclair with AAA New York told WCBS 880’s Paul Murnane.

As CBS 2’s Dave Carlin reported from Mobile 2, traffic was already heavy early Friday evening on the West Side Highway. But the storms that passed through later in the evening made it far worse.

Since many travelers are heading out of the city instead of in, Manhattan’s outbound roadways looked more like parking lots than usual.

In New Jersey, the severe weather caused a traffic nightmare for those trying to get away for the long weekend.

Shane Irizarry told Carlin extra coffee helped him as he took his family from Dobbs Ferry to Lavellette. The combination of heavy traffic and heavy rain added close to two extra hours on his drive time.

“You can’t be frustrated and be a road rager all the way down here, because it won’t help the situation,” he said.

Those who spoke with Carlin said regardless of the weather and heavy traffic, nothing will keep them away from the surf and sand after the tough winter they’ve endured.

NJ TRANSIT began offering early train service out of New York City at 1 p.m. Friday. Extra outbound trains are operating on the Northeast Corridor, North Jersey Coast, Raritan Valley, Morris & Essex and Port Jervis lines. Extra buses are also available from the Port Authority Bus Terminal. For more information, click here.

Metro-North is offering special Memorial Day holiday service as well. Click here to see Metro-North’s detailed list of schedule changes.

The wet weather was expected to continue Saturday — albeit with less severity, CBS 2’s Lonnie Quinn reported. The sunshine will edge out the isolated showers by Sunday. Click here to check the forecast.

New Jersey is hoping winter-weary visitors are ready for some surf and sand as the holiday launches the summer tourism season.

Tourism is New Jersey’s fifth largest industry, generating 7 percent of the state’s economy in 2013.

Gov. Chris Christie is visiting the shore to promote beach tourism and to publicize Sandy recovery efforts. He visited Belmar in the morning before heading to Asbury Park and Seaside Heights, which suffered an added blow when a fire destroyed a large part of the rebuilt boardwalk in September.

Last year’s devastating fire, which started under a Kohr’s frozen custard stand and the Biscayne Candies shop and raged for eight hours, destroyed about 50 businesses over several blocks.

PHOTOS: Massive Fire Strikes Sandy-Hit Jersey Shore

Three blocks of privately owned boardwalk is still under construction, but just to the north the Casino Pier and rest of the boardwalk is open for business.

Seaside Heights Mayor Bill Akers said despite the setback from the fire, they’ve come a long way since Superstorm Sandy.

Last summer, just 50 percent of homes were available.

“I think that we’re going to be somewhere around 80 percent this year,” Akers told WCBS 880’s Sean Adams. “These people needed to get back and get into the new normal, whatever that’s going to be.”

As 1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria reported, Fleet Week is in full swing throughout New York City.

Tourists and New Yorkers alike can visit three U.S. Navy ships and two Coast Guard cutters for free this weekend.

Lt. Brianna Frazier, with the Navy, took in the Sept. 11 Memorial Museum.

“So it was great to come and see. I love the support the city has given us while we’ve been here for Fleet Week. So it was really nice,” she said.

New York officials are also welcoming visitors to Long Island’s state beaches, which are back and ready for the big summer kickoff.

“Beaches are open, we have lifeguards on duty at Robert Moses, Jones Beach, Sunken Meadow and out east at Hither Hills in Montauk,” parks spokesman George Gorman told WCBS 880’s Mike Xirinachs. “We want everybody to come. We have some great beaches, they’re in great condition. We are ready.”

Over 500,000 people are expected to visit Jones Beach over the holiday weekend, WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall reported.

The Blue Angels are also back this year to perform at the Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach this weekend.

As CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, there was some disapointment Friday after the Blue Angels’ practice runs for the air show were limited due to the weather.

Eager fans said they’d be back for the main event this weekend.

The good news is, skies are expected to clear for the holiday weekend, providing near perfect conditions for the show.

The Bethpage Air Show is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of spectators on Saturday and Sunday.

The Blue Angels are set to make their return following a skipped year last year due to federal budget cuts. Their fleets of F18s are ready to wow the audience.

“We are really glad to be back in the skies showcasing the professionalism and pride of the United States Navy,” said Lt. J.G. Amber Lynn Daniel, U.S. Navy Blue Angels, Public Affairs Officer.

Also on tap: Geico Skytypers with World War II planes.

“This year we’ll do 16 shows but we all live here and our airplanes are based here so this is our homecoming show, always happy to do it,” said Geico Skytypers Pilot Jim Record.

At Rockaway Beach, City Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver declared beaches open, but swimmers are prohibited on a large swath of it because of a much delayed Army Corps of Engineers beach replenishment project, WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond reported.

Queens Congressman Gregory Meeks said he’s furious.

“That is not acceptable for them not to be on schedule and to know what kind of equipment to utilize,” he said.

John Cory lives near the beach and has been agitating for better protection, Diamond reported.

“There’s no sense of urgency on the most severely eroded section of the beaches. It’s going to obliterate our neighborhood again with the next minor storm,” he said.

In other sections, such as Belle Harbor and Rockaway Park, protective sand dunes 6-feet tall are limiting access. One resident joked they’ll need a Sherpa to guide people to the beach.

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(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)