Southern New Hampshire businesspeople have a wary eye on Hurricane Earl, whose arrival might coincide with summer's last hurrah — Labor Day weekend.

"Storms can be a real game changer," said Andy Mack Jr., owner of Mack's Apples in Londonderry.

Labor Day weekend kicks off the "U-pick" apple season and lots of rain can take a bite out of sales, he said.

Fortunately, it looks like Earl will pass to the east late Friday and leave clear, cool weather in his wake, ideal for apple picking, Mack said.

Stacie Hanes, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, Maine, said yesterday that Cape Cod's protective arm will likely deflect a major hit from Earl on parts of New England north of the Cape.

Hurricane models indicate Southern New Hampshire could see winds gusting from 25 mph to 30 mph and no more than an inch of rain. If the storm track shifts, the area could get more rain and stronger winds, she cautioned.

Stateline Paysaver in Salem, which sells beer, cigarettes and groceries, sees about a 10 percent spike in business over Labor Day weekend, said Steve Dardas, a store manager. He doesn't think the storm will affect business. Actually, the store typically sees an increase before storms arrive.

Phantom Fireworks in Londonderry is in its off-season, but it will do about double what it does for a typical off-season weekend, said Jarred Falls, assistant store manager. The storm could dampen business a bit.

"It all depends on how hard it hits us," he said.

Travel is traditionally heavy in New Hampshire on Labor Day weekend.

Andy Gagnon, who has worked at the Welcome Center at the state line on Interstate 93 in Salem, said Labor Day is one of the busiest weekends of the year.

"It's the last fling at the end of summer," Gagnon said.

The center typically receives about 700 or 800 visitors between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. on the average Saturday. This Saturday, the number should rise to 2,500, he said. The center saw 1,949 visitors on July 3, he said.

Tourism officials expect an increase in out-of-state visitors and spending this Labor Day weekend.

More than half a million tourists are expected to visit the Granite State and spend $71 million during the three-day weekend, which is the year's second busiest weekend in New Hampshire, trailing only July Fourth weekend.

Yesterday afternoon at the Welcome Center, Ed Angel of Portsmouth, R.I., said he and his wife battened down their home and headed for Meredith. They will return home Tuesday, not before they enjoy Labor Day weekend — Earl or no Earl.

"If we get it, we get it," he said. "What are you going to do?"

Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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