Santa Monica Lookout
|Heat Wave Sends Huge Number of Visitors to Santa Monica Beaches|
By Niki Cervantes
October 13, 2015 -- It was more like summer than autumn this weekend at Santa Monica’s beaches, with attendance swelling seven times higher than usual as visitors sought relief from yet another triple-digit Southern California heat wave, according to County officials.
At the same time, high surf pounded Santa Monica and the rest of Southern California’s coast, causing potentially dangerous rip currents that helped drive a higher-than-usual number of rescues for this time of year, officials said.
Some 150,000 visitors flocked to Santa Monica’s ocean waters on Saturday alone, far exceeding the typical attendance of about 20,000 for a Saturday in mid-October, said Capt. Kenichi Haskett of the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
“It was so hot people were coming from inland, from everywhere to get away from the heat,” Haskett said. “Santa Monica was incredibly busy.”
The rip currents, along with warm waters and huge crowds, kept lifeguards far busier than usual, despite posted riptide warnings, Haskett said. There were 105 rescues in Santa Monica beach waters on Saturday alone, as well as 22 medical calls.
“We tell swimmers, surfers and boogie boarders to stay close to a lifeguard tower,” Haskett said.
Sunday was also a hectic day, with attendance reaching some 97,000 visitors, according to County officials. Rescues, though still unusually high, dropped to 45 and medical calls to 18.
Nearly all of Santa Monica’s two dozen lifeguard towers were staffed over the weekend, and an additional 103 lifeguards were posted from San Pedro to Zuma Beach to handle the crowds, Haskett said.
Santa Monica beaches have drawn large crowds during what has turned out to be a long, hot summer. In mid-August, some 413,000 visitors packed the bay’s beaches during one weekend, a total unusually high even for summer.
This latest heat wave mirrored those that hit the Southland this year, with temperatures reaching 100 degrees in several areas, including Los Angeles, San Fernando and Burbank, according to the National Weather Service.
Santa Monica temperatures remained at around 80 degrees. The heat was expected to start dropping Monday and rain was forecast for late in the week.
Other Los Angeles county beaches also drew unprecedented numbers for October, with the number of beachgoers poised to exceed last year’s attendance, County officials said.
More than 73.8 million people visited the county’s beaches in 2014, the second-highest estimated beach attendance ever, according to the county Fire Department. That was also the warmest year on record for California.
Haskett expects County beaches to break records this year. “We’re on track to do it,” he said.
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