Florida Keys

Expect a lot of traffic in the Keys for Memorial Day weekend. Oh, and lots of rain.

The Sandbar off Islamorada fills with scores of boats during three-day weekends like Memorial Day and Labor Day.
The Sandbar off Islamorada fills with scores of boats during three-day weekends like Memorial Day and Labor Day. File

Expect major delays on U.S. 1 in the Keys this weekend, starting Friday heading south, and leaving the county Monday afternoon and evening.

The Monroe County Sheriff's Office is expected to have every one of its traffic enforcement deputies on the highway for the three-day Memorial Day holiday.

"Memorial Day weekend is one of the busiest weekends of the year for traffic in the Florida Keys, and this year will be no exception," said Adam Linhardt, Sheriff's Office spokesman.

The Sheriff's Office is urging travelers to plan ahead, especially when going home Monday.

"Many of the same visitors will leave on Monday and cause slowdowns in the opposite direction on that day," Linhardt said. "Anyone planning to be on the road over the weekend should plan extra time accordingly."

The only factor that could reduce congestion on the roads is the weekend forecast. A low-pressure system that drifted over the Yucatan Peninsula Thursday has a high chance of becoming a tropical storm over the next five days, according to the National Weather Service.

No matter what it becomes, it's expected to bring lots of rain to South Florida and the Keys at least until Saturday into early Sunday, said David Ross, a National Weather Service Key West meteorologist.

"The bulk of it is expected Saturday," Ross said. Friday night, there is a 60 percent chance of rain, and that moves up to an 80 percent chance Saturday, Ross said Thursday afternoon.

Windy conditions are also expected, up to 20 mph on Saturday, Ross said.

Anyone who's been to Key West during heavy rain knows that the streets drain poorly, so Alyson Crean, spokeswoman for the city, said tourists should not be surprised to see some local flooding.

Memorial Day weekend is also a busy time on the water, and Officer Bobby Dube, with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, is urging people to check the local forecast before heading out. Just because it's nice and sunny when you leave the dock or put your vessel in the water at the boat ramp, never assume those conditions will last, especially this weekend.

Dube also said to keep your eyes on the horizon for storms that could blow in unexpectedly.

"It's better to cut a day short on the water than to weather a storm and rough seas," Dube said in an email. He added that the FWC urges all boaters and passengers to wear life jackets when on the water.

And, while the weekend is a time to be festive out on the water, Dube warned there will be "zero tolerance" for those caught operating vessels impaired.

"FWC officers will be looking for impaired operators and these operators will face arrest if found to be operating under the influence of drugs and alcohol," Dube said.

Deputies and Florida Highway Patrol troopers will also be extra vigilant over the weekend for drivers under the influence, as well as aggressive drivers, Sheriff Rick Ramsay said.

"We will be in particular looking out for people passing in no passing lanes, passing illegally in turn lanes, traveling at unsafe speeds and drinking and driving," Ramsay said.