Mission Boulevard was jammed all day Tuesday. Parking along Pacific Beach was chock-full by 10 a.m., and police were already setting up barricades and warning motorists no lots were vacant and no curbs taken.
On Ocean Beach, lifeguards had rescued 18 swimmers from the surf by mid-afternoon. But on Black's Beach, where swimwear and all-other-wear is optional, not one rescue call was sounded.
"People at Black's don't get in the water much," said lifeguard David Humphrey. "People at Black's Beach do their thing in the sand."
It was the Fourth of July on San Diego County beaches. By day, there was sand and sun. By night, several gigantic fireworks displays up and down the coast.
And all day long, unbearable heat in the inland areas of the county sent thousands of residents west seeking cooler ocean breezes, and relief as the temperature hit 105 degrees in Fallbrook, Ramona and Santee.
The Mission Bay Harbor Patrol estimated that 500,000 people turned out to the beach and bay. And while the crowd of half a million--large but apparently no record, according to Harbor Patrol officials--smothered almost every inch of sand available, police surprisingly reported no major fights or disturbances.
"It seems to be primarily a family-type crowd," said one San Diego police communications officer, noting that there were no significant incidents along the water.
"It's mostly been barbecues and that kind of thing."
Added Humphrey: "Everyone's been really good. The police are out here in full force. We let them take care of the legal problems, and we concentrate on the water."
Concentrate they did.
By nightfall, lifeguards had conducted a total of 68 rescues. Again not a record, officials said, but still something to keep lifeguards' eyes trained on the water, tides and unusual rip currents. And Humphrey said there probably would have been more rescues for such a large crowd, but the water temperature was only 60 degrees by midday, which he said is cooler than normal.
Otherwise, he said, more swimmers would have meant more rescues. But lifeguards were taking no chances.
"On south Pacific Beach, we've had a high rip current," Humphrey said. "It's been pulling pretty hard all day.
"So we've had a lifeguard hanging around in the water out there. But don't worry. He's an experienced swimmer and he's wearing fins and all that. He knows what he's doing."