Jersey shore ready for post-Irene holiday

POINT PLEASANT, N.J. - September 2, 2011

Last Friday, Christie told sunbathers to "get the hell off the beach in Asbury Park," a quote that was replayed on national television for days. He plans to visit Point Pleasant beach on Friday afternoon to show that the shore is open for business.

An estimated 1 million people heeded his words and fled before Irene made landfall in New Jersey on Sunday, something experts have credited with saving lives.

Portions of the Spring Lake boardwalk were torn up, the southern end of Belmar's beachfront sustained flood damage and there was widespread beach erosion, but most New Jersey beaches weathered the storm without permanent damage.

But the evacuations carried an economic cost.

Atlantic City casinos closed for only the third time since opening in 1978 and many businesses lost revenue on a normally busy summer weekend.

Beach towns are out of luck when it comes to federal disaster aid. President Obama has approved money for flood-ravaged counties up north, but shore areas - Monmouth, Ocean, Cape May and Atlantic counties - aren't eligible.

Businesses are hoping for a bustling Labor Day weekend and some are offering promotions to lure people back. Caesar's Casino in Atlantic City is promoting a "Good Night Irene" party and is offering discounted hotel packages.

The weekend forecast along the shore calls for cooler but pleasant temperatures in the low 70s on Saturday, a more summerlike temperature on Sunday, but a good chance for thunderstorms and showers on Sunday and Monday.

AAA Mid-Atlantic has predicted more than 950,000 New Jersey residents would travel 50 miles or more from home for the holiday - 3 percent fewer than 2010, said spokeswoman Tracy Noble. Many travel plans, she said, will hinge on how people fared during the storm.

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