Huntington and Newport beaches brace for more visitors during weekend heat wave
The first heat wave of 2020 brought more people to local beaches Friday, even as Californians are being asked to stay at home during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Beaches in Newport Beach and Huntington Beach are open to visitors, while Laguna Beach’s city beaches are still closed.
Most beaches in neighboring Los Angeles and San Diego counties remain closed.
Huntington Beach registered a high temperature of 82 degrees on Friday. The forecast high for Saturday is 80 degrees.
The beach area north of the pier was well-populated on Friday afternoon, if not crowded. The pier remains closed, along with beach parking lots, metered parking along Pacific Coast Highway and Huntington Harbour beaches, Mayor Lyn Semeta said.
“The crowds are not what you would typically see on a day like today, that’s not during a pandemic,” Huntington Beach Police Department spokeswoman Angie Bennett said. “The crowds are definitely lighter, but there are more people down at our beaches than have been in the last few months.
Bennett said the Huntington Beach Police Department and the city’s Marine Safety Division would each have extra patrols at the beach this weekend.
“Really, this isn’t the time to come to the beach,” she said. “We’re asking people to stay in their own areas if they can, but the beach is open. It’s not that we’re not welcoming people, but there’s nowhere to park, and we want to make sure that people are following the social distancing orders set forth by the state.”
Sebastian Alcaraz of Long Beach, 17, prepared to surf at 11th Street on Friday afternoon, as he has continued to do during the pandemic. He said he was sick for about a week in January and lost his senses of taste and smell. He now believes that he was infected with COVID-19.
Alcaraz’s friend, Natalie Peart of Huntington Beach, 23, said she felt safe at the beach.
“We’re in California; we’re the most chill people,” Peart said. “Everyone’s social. Nobody wants to give that up, you know? … People are going out because we’ve been quarantined for a month, and now it’s hot. Nobody wants to be inside.”
Popular Newport Beach surfing destination the Wedge remains closed, but people still flocked to the beach on Friday. Brett Polley of Irvine, 20, hung out with his friends at 32nd Street and played Spikeball, though they made sure to use disinfectant wipes for the ball.
“It’s a hot day, so you want to go down to the beach,” Polley said. “We’re kind of tired of being in our houses and jerking around. We’ve been keeping up with the news lately … and we really believe that this heat wave will drop people out, weaken the virus at least.”
Beach parking lots in the city also remain closed, as well as the piers, the Oceanfront Boardwalk and the Balboa Island Bayfront Walkway, Newport Beach Police Department spokeswoman Heather Rangel said in an email. Outdoor recreation facilities, including tennis, basketball and pickleball courts and athletic fields, also remain closed.
Rangel said there would be a “visible presence” from police officers, lifeguards and park patrol staff on the beach this weekend. The city has taken an educational approach which has resulted in compliance, and citations have not been issued.
Laguna Beach city beaches remain closed, as they have been since March 23. Earlier this week, Mayor Bob Whalen asked the Orange County Board of Supervisors to also close county beaches and trailheads, but Aliso Beach in south Laguna Beach remains open.
Laguna Beach marine safety captain Kai Bond said that signage notes the closures at the top each of each beach access point, and violators are subject to citation.
Daily Pilot staff writer Julia Sclafani contributed to this report.
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