By Donald Wittkowski
Capping a six-hour drive from Pittsburgh, vacationer Mary Beth Reynolds arrived in Ocean City early Saturday afternoon, just as the overcast skies unleashed heavy rain that threatened to spoil the first part of the Labor Day weekend.
With a day on the beach definitely out of the question, Reynolds stopped at the Ocean City Welcome Center, hoping to get some ideas on how she and her husband, Dean, could salvage their holiday trip to the Jersey Shore, despite the dreary weather.
Right on cue, Nancy Neal, who was working at the Welcome Center counter, greeted Reynolds and handed her a one-page flier that was headlined “Things to do on a rainy day.”
With the remnants of Hurricane Harvey dumping an annoying – and poorly timed – rainfall on the shore, vacationers had to improvise on Saturday to kick off the Labor Day weekend, the traditional end of the summer tourism season.
Fortunately, the weather is expected to greatly improve through the weekend. The forecast calls for sunny skies returning by Sunday afternoon and then a gorgeous Labor Day, with a high of about 80 degrees to cap the holiday.
On a soggy Saturday, some people went shopping, others hit the Boardwalk arcades and still others were planning a quiet afternoon at the Ocean City Historical Museum in place of trips to the beach. The restaurants were another popular diversion.
“I think the restaurants are doing very well. Every place for breakfast was packed this morning,” said Neal, an information officer for the Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce.
The Chamber of Commerce, which runs the Welcome Center, tries to help visitors out in bad weather with its “Things to do on a rainy day” flier. It is a list of local amusement parks, arcades, restaurants, shops, spas and other spots that serve as a haven during gray days.
Neal spent Saturday morning and afternoon greeting visitors and pointing out popular vacation attractions on a map. Some of the vacationers were from North Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio and were unfamiliar with Ocean City.
“Good afternoon. Welcome to sunny Ocean City,” Neal joked in a friendly voice as visitors stepped inside the Welcome Center to seek shelter from the rain.
Angela and Ron Dowd, of New York City, accompanied by their children, were making their first trip to Ocean City and were among those seeking some sightseeing advice from Neal. The Dowds and their son, Edward, 15, and daughters, Marianne, 13, and Stephanie, 9, visited Lucy the Elephant in Margate on Saturday morning and were hoping to spend time at the Ocean City Historical Museum in the afternoon.
“With the weather being so rainy, we’re mainly looking for inside activities to do,” Angela Dowd said.
Mary Beth Reynolds and her husband brought their bikes for their weeklong vacation. They were looking for the weather to break later in the day so they could take a ride around town.
“Typically, if the weather was nice, we would have left our home in Pittsburgh a little earlier and gone to the beach once we got here,” Reynolds said. “Now, we’ll probably just grab a bite to eat and then go to the grocery store. We’re still talking about what we’re going to do the rest of the day.”
As the rainfall became heavier later in the day, Vincent Callaghan and his 12-year-old daughter, Abigail, ducked inside the Boardwalk arcade at Playland’s Castaway Cove.
Callaghan, a vacationer from Caldwell, N.J., noted that he and his wife had originally planned to take their daughter to a Colonial re-enactment in Cape May County, but the bad weather forced them to cancel that trip. So instead, they decided to go to the arcade, with Abigail beating her father in a video game of Space Invaders.
“I’m really happy that I won,” Abigail said, laughing, as her father smiled.
Umbrella-toting crowds splashed through the rain while strolling down the Boardwalk, stopping at the amusement sites, shops and restaurants along the way.
Just off the Boardwalk at 10th Street, Ocean City lifeguards Calen Connell and Kat Soanes were peering out over a choppy surf devoid of swimmers. If anyone ventured into the water, the lifeguards allowed them to go only knee deep.
“We’re mainly just seeing people quickly going in and out,” Connell said.
However, Angelique Ines, a vacationer from Toledo, Ohio, braved the waves to take a dip in the 74-degree ocean.
“It’s not that cold. Besides, I just had to go in the water after doing all that driving,” Ines said of her eight-hour trip from Ohio.
In her case, getting wet wasn’t bad at all.