Somber Skies Set Tone for Memorial Day : Holiday: The weather discourages attendance at beaches, parks, but faithful turn out anyway. Lifeguards report an easy day, with few rescues.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Occasional thundershowers and gray skies turned Memorial Day somber in Orange County, discouraging attendance at local parks and beaches on the first holiday of the season.

"We had thundershowers coming and going," said state lifeguard Randall Roberts, who spent Monday at Bolsa Chica State Beach. "But it really didn't stop all the crowd from coming out.

"People that made their plans to come here before the weather turned overcast seemed to follow through on them," said Roberts, who estimated that 12,000 to 15,000 people visited the park Monday.

With light surf, average crowds and weather described by some as "yucky," lifeguards had a relatively easy day. Stingrays stung a few swimmers at Bolsa Chica, and lifeguards made only five water rescues by 5 p.m. at Huntington State Beach, state lifeguard Jim Balok said.

"It was sunny for a little while, and rainy, and overcast, and windy, and not windy," Balok said. "You name the weather, we had it today."

Recreation officials at Carbon Canyon Park in Brea reported a moderate crowd, with people showing up for picnics and softball and volleyball games. Officials closed the park to vehicles about 10 a.m. after running out of parking space. It was reopened to cars at 3 p.m.

Attendant Ray Davis at Ronald W. Caspers Regional Park said many people visited the park east of San Juan Capistrano for barbecuing and horseback riding. Others visited the 7,600-acre park to hike on its more than 30 miles of trails.

"We had between 50 and 100 wilderness permits issued today," Davis said. "That's quite a few--on a typical weekend day, probably 20 or 30 are issued."

Many Orange County sheriff's deputies reported to extra duty at two county parks Monday. Extra deputies were deployed at Mile Square Regional Park in Fountain Valley and Irvine Regional Park in Orange--which were both filled to capacity--but they saw limited action, Sheriff's Lt. Jay Mendez said.

"We only had one medical call," Mendez said. Overall, he said, "It was a family-type atmosphere."

Parts of the county were misty throughout the morning, but only one location--El Toro Marine Corps Air Station--reported rainfall. El Toro had a trace amount of rain by 5 p.m., according to Curtis Brack, a meteorologist with WeatherData, which provides forecasts for The Times.

Laguna Beach had the lowest daytime temperature in the county, reporting a high of only 74 degrees, Brack said. Santa Ana had the county's high at 84 degrees, with humidity ranging from 66% to 84%.

"That's fairly muggy," said Brack, who attributed the conditions to a surge of tropical moisture from offshore. Weather forecasters had expected that disturbance to move toward the coast today, not Monday.

The moist, gray skies lent a solemn air to midday memorial ceremonies held at Fairhaven Memorial Park in Santa Ana.

Santa Ana's Saddleback High School band played for about 2,500 visitors to the park, along with a men's choir and barbershop quartet, mortuary clerk John Aguilera said.

Representatives of the armed forces stood before a looming white mausoleum, accompanied by a color guard, and told seated guests about the sacrifices of military veterans, he said.

Cemetery grounds were covered with U.S. flags, and cemetery employees were dressed in clothes evoking memories of the late 1800s and early 1900s, Aguilera said.

"We only had a few drops of rain," Aguilera said. "It was not hot, it was not cold--it was just the right feel."

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