A cooling trend settled over San Diego County on Monday prompting thousands of San Diegans to celebrate the last summer holiday away from the beach, leaving plenty of parking and beach spaces for those who decided to brave the cool September temperatures.
Beach attendance was down this year compared to Labor Day last year, when 300,000 people crowded the county’s beaches to escape the heat.
On Monday, nearly 200,000 people visited county beaches, despite cool weather and low-lying clouds.
“The crowd was not as big as it could have been if we would have had a hot and sunny day,” lifeguard Allison Sherwood said.
A high pressure trough over Southern California pushed in a front of low-lying clouds that blanketed the county’s beaches until around noon.
By 3 p.m. the clouds were back, cutting the Labor Day celebration short for many beachgoers. Police reported a slight surge in outbound beach traffic near 4 p.m.
“Even if people didn’t come here for the sun, they still stopped by to look at that huge sand castle on the north side of Crystal Pier,” Sherwood said, referring to a monstrous sand structure built by Sand Sculptors International.
The high at Lindbergh Field was 78 degrees Monday, a substantial drop from the last days of August when highs hovered near 90 degrees.
Even East County experienced cooler temperatures at the close of the Labor Day weekend. Inland highs hit 85 degrees compared to highs of 100 degrees at the close of last week.
“It was cool enough to just sit at home and enjoy one of the final days of summer, but I decided to go to the beach anyway,” said Jose Martino of Santee.
Attendance figures may have been down from last year, but according to city lifeguards, the number of water rescues was up substantially this Labor Day.
Sherwood blamed a strong riptide for many of the 318 rescues lifeguards made over the weekend.
San Diego and Harbor Police increased their Mission Bay patrols Monday by 25%, expecting huge traffic jams and beach crowding.
But the traffic jams never materialized. Motorists filed into the city’s beach area parking lots in an orderly fashion, unlike this past July Fourth, when Mission Bay beach traffic backed up along Interstate 8 to Hotel Circle.
There were a few incidents that kept police busy--lost children, minor fistfights and illegal parking--but overall, “The holiday was pretty mellow,” said assistant Police Chief Bob Burgreen.
Merchants who kept their doors open for Labor Day shoppers welcomed the cool temperatures. The glimpse of fall weather brought thousands of customers to Horton Plaza Monday.
Merchants at other area shopping malls, including Fashion Valley and University Towne Center, also reported large shopping crowds.
By 9 p.m. Monday, the California Highway Patrol had received reports of 34 holiday traffic fatalities in the state--down from the 51 recorded during the first two days of the Labor Day weekend last year.
In San Diego County, six people had been reported killed in traffic accidents during the Labor Day weekend:
- Kenneth Robinson, 25, a Marine corporal based at Camp Pendleton, was killed Sunday night when the car in which he was riding collided at the intersection of Mission Avenue and Airport Road in Oceanside. Scott Pearson, 20, driver of the vehicle, was transported to UC San Diego Medical Center where he is listed in fair condition Monday.
- Jeffrey Carl Wedeking, 28, of San Diego, died Sunday afternoon after he lost control of the motorcycle he was riding on Wildcat Mountain Road in Lakeside and slid into an oncoming car.
- Mary Cultreri, 86, of San Diego, was killed Sunday when a car struck her as she was crossing the 2600 block of Park Boulevard less than a mile from her home.
- Steven Long, 11, of San Diego, died Sunday evening after he was struck by a motorist while playing on a street in Logan Heights.
- Winifred Campbell, 82, of Carlsbad, died Saturday afternoon after her car collided with another vehicle on Carlsbad Boulevard. The impact sent her car spinning down the boulevard where it collided with a second vehicle.
- Marla Lee McCarthy, 21, of San Diego, died Saturday after she was struck by a car as she stepped off the center divider of Mission Drive between Grand Avenue and Bunker Hill Street in Pacific Beach.
Highway patrol officials reported a decrease in the number of drunk driving arrests made over the long weekend. Officials reported 2,097 drunken driving arrests statewide compared to 2,226 in 1984.