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Huge Memorial Day weekend crowds expected at Southern California beaches

People walk on the Malibu Pier
People visit the Malibu Pier on Feb. 22.
(Al Seib/Los Angeles Times)

Officials are bracing for massive crowds at Southern California beaches this Memorial Day weekend.

Coastal areas are typically packed during the weekend that marks the unofficial start of the summer season. That’s compounded this year by the fact that the region is continuing to emerge from months of coronavirus restrictions, said Matt Myerhoff, media information officer for the city of Malibu.

“It has been busy already, more busy than normal this time of year,” Myerhoff said. “Because of the opening up, people are eager to get out.”

The Los Angeles Police Department will have a heavy presence at Venice and Dockweiler beaches in anticipation of an influx of visitors, the LAPD’s Pacific Division said on Facebook.

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Visitors to Orange County beaches might also notice more law enforcement than usual. The Orange County Sheriff’s Department is working with its partners at Orange County Parks to step up enforcement, and is increasing beach patrols in cities that contract with the sheriff’s department for services, said Carrie Braun, public information officer for the sheriff’s department.

The Huntington Beach Police Department will have extra boots on the ground in the city’s downtown and beach areas, said Jennifer Carey, the department’s public information officer.

“It’s fairly standard for us to bring in additional officers over a beach holiday weekend,” she said. “We just want to make sure that everyone celebrates safely.”

Malibu’s efforts to keep the crowds under control start each year with a coordinating meeting with city officials, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s and Fire departments, L.A. County Beaches and Harbors, California State Parks, Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, and the California Highway Patrol, Myerhoff said.

Many of those agencies are stepping up staffing, including Beaches and Harbors and State Parks, which has increased coverage to seven days a week. The Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority doubles patrols in its parks between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

The city of Malibu also funds a beach patrol team from the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department’s Lost Hills station to keep watch between Memorial and Labor days each year, Myerhoff said.

“This year, the city requested the beach team to start early, on May 1, in anticipation of early crowding at the beach due to lifting of COVID restrictions,” he said.

The team has 10 quad runners that traverse the beaches keeping an eye out for alcohol consumption, which is illegal on L.A. County beaches, in a bid to reduce drunk driving, drownings and fights, Myerhoff said. He said that Malibu has also requested additional sheriff’s department patrols, as it always does for holiday weekends.

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The city has seen a rise in traffic congestion and street racing during the pandemic, as driving was for a time one of the few permissible activities, Myerhoff said. The CHP’s street racing task force will continue to be out in the area, and the agency is providing two additional patrols to help with traffic enforcement this weekend, he said.

Photos posted to social media showed people flocking to the shoreline under gray skies Saturday.

“It’s looking like a fairly cool and fairly cloudy holiday weekend for the beach areas,” said David Sweet, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

Coastal areas are expected to see near- to below-normal temperatures through Sunday due to a heavy marine layer that only partially clears in the afternoon, with highs in the 60s, he said.

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That will change Monday, when a ridge of high pressure is expected to move over California and remain for most of the week, sending temperatures rising, Sweet said. Conditions will be sunnier with highs in the lower 70s along the coast and in the 90s in the mountains and Antelope Valley, plus gusty winds in the afternoon, Sweet said.

Things will continue to warm up through the week, with the Antelope Valley expected to surpass 100 degrees Tuesday through Friday, he said.

“The overall dryness and the gusty winds and the hot temperatures will combine for elevated fire danger in the mountains and Antelope Valley by Monday afternoon and continuing through much of the week,” he said.


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