Harrison County

Spring breakers: Heavy traffic, sunny weather in Biloxi

Spring breakers navigate their way past grills, tents and coolers during Biloxi Black Beach Weekend, Saturday, April 11, 2015.
Spring breakers navigate their way past grills, tents and coolers during Biloxi Black Beach Weekend, Saturday, April 11, 2015. SUN HERALD

BILOXI -- People planning to attend the Biloxi Black Beach Weekend can expect sunny weather and heavy traffic.

Police Chief John Miller said he's expecting a larger crowd than usual and has announced plans to help keep traffic from turning into gridlock on the beachfront highway.

The weekend weather forecast promises sunny skies and mild temperatures in the lower to mid-70s.

But traffic will likely be "heavy, heavy," Miller said. "We also have people in town for other events."

Park to avoid traffic

Those who come for spring break will be better off if they park their cars and stroll around to enjoy the weekend's offerings, he said.

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So where are spring breakers to park and what do they need to know?

Miller suggests visitors park at the Coast Coliseum, where parking will be $5 per carload Friday and $20 per carload Saturday. Wrist bands will be given to everyone who is in a vehicle that parks there, which also allows admission to Coliseum grounds for the event's day party and car and bike show.

A private parking area also has been set up west of the Coliseum. The price wasn't immediately available, but a social media post says the area is the length of four football fields.

Those who park find they can easily stroll the beachfront boardwalk or get out on the beach.

Parking in a manner that blocks traffic is likely to lead to an arrest. And tow trucks will be standing by, Miller said.

Visitors often choose to park in turn bays along the beach. Those parking bays will close at 10 p.m., however.

Also, it's unlawful to bring glass containers, such as bottles of soda, beer, wine or other alcohol, onto the beach. But it's OK to pour a beverage from a bottle in your car into a plastic container and take that on the beach, he said.

Police have a traffic plan

Traffic can easily become bumper-to-bumper along the beachfront, especially during Biloxi Black Beach Week. Miller said he expects traffic to begin getting heavy about noon Saturday. The heaviest traffic area usually is from the Coliseum west to Edgewater Mall.

Here's the Biloxi Police Department's plan to keep traffic moving:

-- Drivers trying to enter U.S. 90 in bumper-to-bumper traffic, or turning around and trying to enter the parking bay, can cause traffic snarls for a couple of hours, Chief Miller said. If traffic begins to become heavy, police will close the turn bays temporarily.

-- If that doesn't help, police will shut down side streets to keep traffic moving east and west, minimizing slowdowns by motorists trying to get off U.S. 90.

-- What could happen next hasn't happened in several years: The last resort to prevent gridlock is to vent traffic to the west to Gulfport, where police will divert drivers north on Cowan Road and onto Interstate 10. Eastbound drivers would be sent east to Interstate 110 and north to I-10.

Miller said the plan aims to give traffic time to thin out so it doesn't reach a standstill.

"We want people to come enjoy our city," he said, "but we can't let traffic reach gridlock."

Coast hotels are booked up from state line to state line, according to the Gulf Coast Hotel-Motel Association.

That doesn't mean the rooms are booked by people coming for the Biloxi Black Beach Weekend, though.

There are families on vacation and several events going on, Miller said.

For instance, the Gulf Coast Yacht and Boat Show starts Friday at the Gulfport Harbor. Its event last year, over two weekends, drew about 26,000 people.

Promoters of Biloxi Black Beach Weekend have said 15,000 or more attended last year before rain dampened outdoor activities.

Something fun each day

This year's gathering has a pre-party Thursday night, a Twerk Fest at the Convention Center on Friday night and a headliner concert in the Coliseum arena Saturday night. Performers include Future, Yo Gotti, 9th Ward Judy, Plies, Tory Lanez and Rich Homie Quan.

Saturday's day party includes a car, truck and bike show, bikini contest, celebrity guests and performances. There's also a final party at a Gulfport restaurant Sunday.

The events are promoted heavily via social media.

"We're looking forward to a good weekend all the way around," said Derrian Burns, one of the promoters.

"A lot of out-of-towners are coming to the Coast and people from Louisiana and Alabama, people within 5- to 8-hour drives. We've gotten calls from Missouri, California and Oregon, and even a call from a person in Hawaii who remembers coming here for spring break and wants to come back."

Burns said he and co-promoter Maurice Bryant have visited Southern Miss, Ole Miss and other colleges around the state to hand out material on this weekend's events.

Ticket sales for Saturday night have done so well promoters asked the Coliseum to open up more seats. As many as 9,000 will attend the concert. Only a limited number of tickets were still available as of Tuesday.

One last thing

And another thing. Biloxi Black Beach Weekend is not just for African-Americans, Burns said.

"It's definitely not just for black people. We do understand a majority of people who are going to be here are African-American, but we are for all people to have a good time," he said.

"The name, well, there's a lot of people who like the idea of having something they can call their own. But everyone is welcome."

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