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Mild, Peaceful Holiday Ends Summer that Never Came : Labor Day: Blah weather means shopping malls, not the beaches, draw the big crowds. Police report no weekend traffic fatalities locally.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Orange County on Monday bid farewell to a cool, cloudy summer with a mild Labor Day weekend, one that saw few extraordinarily large crowds at the beaches and no traffic fatalities on the highways.

In fact, the only unusual bustle seemed to be in area stores, where shoppers were undeterred by crowded parking lots and traffic snarls getting in and out of them.

“I think the weather has a lot to do with it,” said Barbara Fox, personnel manager at Nordstrom in South Coast Plaza. “The weather today was kind of icky, so I think a lot of people came here. We’re packed. The place is humming.”

As busy as it was inside the malls, however, the county’s highways, sometimes the scene of Labor Day tragedy, proved a safe haven for drivers.

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The Orange County coroner’s office reported Monday that it had no traffic fatalities over the weekend.

“The Chippies (California Highway Patrol officers) were doing a good job,” said coroner’s investigator Rick McAnally. “That’s not only slow for a Labor Day weekend; that’s slow for any weekend.”

McAnally said the county recorded six fatalities last year and four in 1989.

But by most other standards, it was a typical Labor Day Weekend. There were the usual crowds at the beach, the normal number of alcohol-related arrests and average weather conditions, officials said.

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“It’s been a pretty typical Labor Day. Fairly busy with alcohol-related incidents,” Newport Beach Police Sgt. Andy Gonis said. “We probably made about 60 arrests (in alcohol-related incidents) over the weekend.”

Newport Beach Marine Safety Officer Craig Farmer said it “was a pretty uneventful weekend” at the beaches, mostly because the weather was mild.

“The sun never really broke through today. We had crowds because everybody was off, but it wasn’t out of control,” said Farmer, who estimated that there were about 80,000 beach-goers each day on the Newport shore this weekend. “We had pleasant water, but not much surf, and that’s what usually brings people here.”

In Huntington Beach, it was more of the same. “We had typical Labor Day weekend crowds,” said Duncan McCulloch, a supervisor for Huntington Beach lifeguards. “The sun didn’t break until after noon. It was like that all weekend.”

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The Labor Day weather, in fact, was nearly a carbon copy of last year’s, said Steve Burback, a meteorologist for WeatherData, which provides forecasts for The Times.

“It was in the mid 80s in most of the county,” Burback said. “It was really similar to last year and quite close to normal for most years.”

Still, the weekend brought none of the scorching days that can boost Labor Day beach crowds, and as a result, even the county’s most popular stretches of coastline were kept under control, officers said.

In the usually gridlocked streets of Laguna Beach, for instance, officials reported that crowds did not overwhelm the community.

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“It’s been really quiet for us,” said a police dispatcher for the city.


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