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Orange County

Send-Off for a Summer Season

Thousands head to the beach, fleeing heat inland, to celebrate the passage.

September 07, 2004|Claire Luna | Times Staff Writer

Fleeing sizzling temperatures only to encounter sewage spills and swift ocean currents, hundreds of thousands of people spilled onto Orange County beaches Monday to mark the symbolic end of summer in quintessential California fashion.

"It's nice to finally get some summer weather on the last weekend of summer," said Beth Delgado, 50, from an Adirondack chair on the north end of Newport Beach with an insulated bottle of water and the new issue of Vogue.

A 16-block portion of that beach, closed since Saturday by a sewage spill, reopened late Monday morning after health officials determined that strong currents had carried the waste out to sea. But many had already picked up their coolers and headed south after seeing the knee-high yellow signs planted in the sand warning people to stay out of the water.

"The sand's only fun for so long," said Gary Favero, who came from Rancho Cucamonga with his wife and 2-year-old son, and left before the closure was lifted.

A 2.3-mile stretch of beach had been closed after 13,000 gallons of treated and untreated wastewater flowed into the Santa Ana River, then the ocean, Saturday afternoon. It was scheduled to be completely reopened Tuesday. The part that remained closed Monday, stretching from Magnolia Street in Huntington Beach to 68th Street in Newport, looked almost surreal in its emptiness.

"It's kind of pretty with no one in the water," said Patrick Lathrop, 42, of Costa Mesa. It apparently wasn't that attractive, though -- soon afterward, he and his friend Christina Stevens, 39, of Hollywood, joined the southward migration of beachgoers.

In Los Angeles County, about 300,000 swarmed the sands between Marina del Rey and Topanga. "Summer finally showed up," said lifeguard Capt. Angus Alexander.

Temperatures were slightly cooler than Sunday, when Anaheim was the hottest city in the nation at 107 degrees. On Monday, Yorba Linda had notched Orange County's highest temperature with a dry 100 degrees, according to Weather Central, which provides data to The Times.

The beach crowds were too much for a couple of dozen families, who sought relief instead on a rock jetty at Dana Point Harbor. Dinghies -- with dogs perched like hood ornaments -- tooled around the turquoise water, coming to rest in a no-wake zone where the water was waist-high, calm and clear.

"In this heat, you have to be close to the water, but it's a lot nicer here without the crowds of the beach," said Jeff Reeves, 34, of Brea. "And it's so dog-friendly," he added as a sheltie in a yellow life jacket paddled by.

Across the water at a beach park, smoke from a dozen grills cooking burgers and carne asada also signaled summer's traditional sign-off. As children buried themselves in the sand, grandparents took refuge under trees and buried their heads in Vietnamese- and Spanish-language newspapers.

Labor Day was anything but calm for Laguna Beach lifeguard Darryl Reames.

"I don't think I've been out of the water for more than five minutes all day," said Reames, 19, before darting through a sea of umbrellas and jumping into the surf to help a winded boogie-boarder.

Monday was less intense for Orange County lifeguards than Sunday, when more than 1,000 people were rescued from swells and riptides. But enforcing the shoreline closure and surfboard regulations, as well as watching for lateral currents and big waves caused by a hurricane off Mexico, made Monday go fast.

Huntington Beach lifeguards issued about 3,500 warnings asking people in the water to move, and performed about 65 rescues, officials said. About 100,000 people were at the beach Monday.

"It's really busy," said Lt. Brent Rennick, a Huntington Beach lifeguard supervisor. "Everybody wants to be in the water."

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Times staff writer Nora Zamichow contributed to this report.

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