Beaches first responders protect huge crowds in record heat

Estimated 90,000 people packed Jacksonville Beach on Memorial Day

By Vic Micolucci - I-TEAM reporter, anchor

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. - Memorial Day weekend and sunny skies brought large crowds to Jacksonville area beaches.

Lifeguards in Jacksonville Beach said it’s one of their busiest weekends, with an estimated 90,000 beachgoers hitting the sand on Monday.

Couple the crowds with record high temperatures, and first responders had their hands full. It had first responders on high alert all day – staying busy making sure everyone is safe.

Jacksonville Beach’s Volunteer Lifesaving Corps had over 50 lifeguards on duty up and down the beach. It was all hands on deck for lifeguards in Neptune Beach and Atlantic Beach, too.

"Hot. Super hot," said 5-year-old Darren "DJ" Mason when asked to describe his family's trip to the beach Monday morning.

Mason said he was extra careful at the beach, hanging onto advice he got from his parents. "Stay safe by them and don’t run away from them," he said.

His father, Darren Mason Sr., said he keeps a close eye on his children.

"Absolutely," he said. "I make sure that they stay close, make sure they are only a foot deep, and just to make sure they’re watching where we are."

WATCH: Lifeguards and police protect beachgoers

It’s what lifeguards want to hear.

News4Jax went on beach patrol with Jacksonville Beach lifeguard Captain Max Ervanian. He said a big issue is children who wander off, especially on busy weekends like this one.

"What’s your name?" Ervanian asked a girl who complained she lost track of her mom. "Let’s get some information and we'll help find your parents."

The girl was reunited with her family a short time later.

"If you lose your child, please go... to a lifeguard immediately," Ervanian said. "And also teach your child if they cannot find you, to go to lifeguard immediately."

The record heat was a challenge for everyone in the sun. Lifeguards urged people to limit time they spend in direct sunlight, to wear sunscreen and stay hydrated.

News4Jax was in Neptune Beach as Jacksonville Fire and Rescue paramedics took a man to the hospital after he overheated. They expected him to make a recovery.

North of the Jacksonville Beach Pier, around 12:30pm, the heat spawned a sand dust devil. Video showed the wind whipping umbrellas other belongings into the air as beachgoers scrambled.

Police anticipated the crowds would last into the evening. There were 50 Jacksonville Beach officers on the roads and in a command center, watching over beachgoers with a high-tech web of cameras.

"It’s certainly busy," said Sgt. Anthony Dziedzicki. "Weather is a factor. Nice weather, nice crowd. We’re just trying to keep everybody safe."

Officers said the cameras have been fully operational for about a year.

"We’ve got a downtown camera situated so we get a good encompassing view of what’s going on in our downtown area and try to relay information if there’s a situation, we can relay it to those officers on the street," Dziedzicki said.

Lifeguards and police said thankfully there were no major incidents over Memorial Day weekend.​

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