NEWPORT BEACH (CBSLA.com) — As temperatures remained more than 10 degrees above normal Monday, the city of Newport Beach pleaded with off-duty season lifeguards to return and help monitor the masses escaping the heat at the beach.
The combination of high temperatures, warm water and big surf resulted in record numbers of beach-goers, despite being mid-October.
Lifeguards, meanwhile, are struggling to keep up. Whereas there were 140 lifeguards over summer, there are just 40 on duty this time of year.
“The public is coming out like it’s Fourth of July conditions,” Newport Beach Lifeguard Eric Smith said. “There’s hundreds of people between towers, and we just have a complete lack of staffing. It’s concerning because you have to do something, and you don’t necessarily know if you’re going to have backup.
“You have to handle some hard situations, possibly by yourself.”
The Newport Beach lifeguard battalion chief resorted to sending out an automated advisory over call and text to all lifeguards, including seasonal lifeguards, saying they will be needing more guards for the next two weeks, citing “El Niño needs.”
“They’ve been forecasting an El Niño, so I think it’s been in the back of everyone’s mind that this could be a possibility, but this doesn’t happen often,” lifeguard Jake Philpot said.
Philpot is among the seasonal lifeguards who put his second job on hold to be a temporary, full-time lifeguard.
“We’re not going to be able to fill all of the lifeguard towers that we do in summer,” Philpot said.
Availability is suffering, as many young lifeguards are in school and unable to answer the call.
The anticipated time frame of two weeks of extra guards could be extended depending on conditions, according to the battalion chief.