Rain dampens Jax Beach vacations

Tourists make most out of wet weather

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JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. - Days of rain from Tropical Storm Debby have caused many tourists headed to the Jacksonville area to turn around.

Hotels at Jacksonville Beach say they have taken a financial hit.

But there are some visitors choosing to tough it out.

There were small breaks from the rain Tuesday at the beach, and a few people were getting out to enjoy it. It was a welcome sight for many tourists there who say the recent weather is not what they expected from a Florida vacation.

Jamie Webb drove with her family and friends from Tennessee, hoping for sunshine, only to be greeted by days of pouring ran.

But that wasn't stopping their fun.

"We've actually been out here a little bit when it's raining, so we do run in occasionally, and when we see the sun shining we'll run out," Webb said.

One group of women came from Massachusetts, Maryland and Maine. They haven't been able to pull out their swimsuits just yet, but with family in the area, they've found other ways to pass the time.

"We had a big party last night over at their house, saw all the kids and their in-laws," said Marilyn Leddy, of Massachusetts. "You know, it's been a great time. I can't say that it's been just the weather."

While many visitors are making the best of a soggy situation, area hotels say many tourists are making other plans.

At Quality Suites, general manager Sonny Bhikha said he's seen quite a few cancellations and a drop in last-minute reservations.

"We're not getting people calling right now to make plans for this weekend, so that's the big difference that I see is that right now people are just going in the opposite direction, just not coming this way," Bhikha said.

He said the hotel has seen a 40 percent drop in customers. At other beach-front hotels, the drop is as high as 50 percent.

With Tropical Storm Beryl on Memorial Day and now Debby, business is taking a hit.

"It's huge because this is summertime, this is a prime time for us at the beaches market," Bhikha said. "School's out, kids want to come, and this hotel attracts a lot of families."

While the weather is a disappointment, visitors say a rainy beach is still a fun beach.

"It's still fun, it's still Florida, it's still the ocean, it's still the beach," Webb said. "It's still fun, it's still worth it."

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