Harrison County

Police: Not enough parking for spring breakers

JEFF CLARK/SUN HERALDBiloxi Black Beach Weekend visitors line the beach as traffic started to get heavy on U.S. 90 near the Mississippi Coast Coliseum on Saturday, April 9, 2016.
JEFF CLARK/SUN HERALDBiloxi Black Beach Weekend visitors line the beach as traffic started to get heavy on U.S. 90 near the Mississippi Coast Coliseum on Saturday, April 9, 2016.

BILOXI -- Biloxi Black Beach Weekend drew far more visitors and traffic than anyone had imagined, and people stayed longer than usual, Police Chief John Miller said.

As many as 35,000 spring breakers showed there's not enough parking spaces for a crowd that large on U.S. 90.

"That's far more people than we've seen in quite a few years," Miller said. "There was parking for maybe 1/10th of the cars."

Police closed bays and side roads at times, sending motorists east or west to thin out traffic, and probably could have diverted drivers to Interstate 10 a couple of times, Miller said.

"I don't care what kind of traffic plan you have. If you get that many people, you are going to have traffic problems," Miller said.

"If everybody parked and got out on the beach, we wouldn't have such problems with traffic. But there were some who wanted to cruise, including those in their after-market, souped-up cars. Those who had spent a lot of money on their cars wanted to show them off."

Miller said about 3,400 parking spaces were available, with 2,800 at the Coliseum and about 600 spaces at two private lots.

"There is just no, no, no nowhere near enough places for that many people to park," Miller said. "But I want to thank everyone for their patience."

Other problems?

Police towed 31 vehicles that were parked illegally on the side of the road or drivers left the front or end of their cars sticking out in traffic. Miller said only a handful of people were arrested, including 10 suspected of driving impaired.

Also, traffic frequently came to a stop as pedestrians crossed the highway to and from the beach. Miller said he's thinking about setting up crossovers next year and assigning officers to stop traffic for motorists at designated areas.

Crowd swelled

The crowd appeared to have reached its peak of 15,000 to 20,000 around 7 or 8 p.m. Saturday, when many of spring breakers started leaving town. But Popp's Ferry was bumper-to-bumper with people coming into the city, he said.

And suddenly it seemed the crowd had doubled.

Large crowds showed up at Kress Live and Zepplin's, he said, as visitors looked for somewhere else to go. Downtown was packed, he said, until 2 or 3 a.m. Sunday.

Earlier Saturday, Gulfport police sent eastbound drivers up Cowan Road and directed them on to Pass Road.

Said McDaniel, "We had a lot of questions, like 'How do you get to the Coliseum?'"

Busy Sunday

Typically, spring breakers leave Sunday by noon. Some didn't.

About 100 people gathered on the beach across from Quality Inn, Miller said. Within 2 1/2 hours, the crowd grew to 1,000.

"There was a whole lot of traffic in that area for about three hours," he said.

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