Record-setting crowds flock to Malibu to beat the heat

Hundreds head out to Zuma Beach to beat the heat during Labor Day weekend, which made for a busy beat for the Malibu lifeguards. Photo by Julie Ellerton/TMT.

As Southern California baked over Labor Day weekend under what was described as a “heat dome,” thousands of people flocked to Malibu beaches, where temperatures in the 90s only provided slight relief. A Flex Alert issued over the holiday weekend asking for voluntary energy conservation to ease the stressed power grid had many people leaving their stifling hot homes for the coast. 

As the thermometer reached a peak of 112 in nearby Woodland Hills, local beaches drew record crowds. 

On Sunday, the parking lots at Zuma and Westward Beaches reached capacity forcing a shutout to late visitors. Los Angeles County Lifeguards reported more than 518,000 visitors to Malibu beaches over the long holiday weekend. Lifeguards made 203 water rescues and more than 200 people were treated for various medical conditions.

Pacific Coast Highway was a tangled mess of drivers searching for coveted few roadside spots or on their way to the Malibu Chili Cook-Off at the Civic Center. 

The 40th annual Malibu Chili Cook Off was a resounding success, according to organizers from the Boys & Girls Club Malibu that produces the event. Malibu’s biggest social event of the year and fundraiser welcomed more than 26,000 attendees over the four-day holiday period. Celebrities spotted included Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck, Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, Patrick Schwarzenegger, and Lana Del Rey.

By Sunday afternoon, traffic came to a standstill after a fatal traffic accident on Malibu Canyon Road just north of PCH. North and southbound lanes of Malibu Canyon were completely shut from PCH to Civic Center Way around 4:30 p.m. and didn’t reopen until 7:30. That forced drivers to skirt around the closure near the Chili Cook-Off that was already crawling with traffic. Authorities are still investigating the accident that involved a solo male driver whose car rolled over several times in the crash. There were no other passengers or injuries to others. 

2022 Labor Day Beach Photos Julie Ellerton TMT2
Photo by Julie Ellerton/TMT.

Malibu Volunteers on Patrol Team Leader Mark Russo was first on the scene of the fatal accident. His team worked from Friday evening through Monday evening volunteering for the Sheriff’s Department and assisting with traffic control, keeping them busy all weekend. 

“We had maximum enforcement and the Sheriff’s special enforcement at the Chili Cook Off venue and everybody for the most part was pretty well behaved,” Russo reported.

The VOP team issued a whopping 495 traffic citations over the holiday weekend for various parking violations. Another traffic accident occurred Friday evening when one car lost control and crashed into a retaining wall in Point Dume. 

Malibu Search and Rescue, along with the fire department, assisted a dehydrated woman in her 50s who summoned help in Malibu Creek State Park near the “M*A*S*H” site at 11:30 a.m. Saturday. David Katz, MSAR team leader reported the temperature in Malibu Creek State Park on Saturday was well over 100 degrees. 

“In Malibu (near the shore) it was about 90,” Katz said. “Hiking in on that first rescue on Saturday you feel the heat immediately especially when you’re carrying 50 pounds of gear.” 

Team members carry in medical gear and other equipment needed for rescues. 

Katz also said he was surprised by how many people he observed hiking on Saturday in Malibu Creek State Park despite the triple-digit temperatures. Fortuitously, as the team was leaving the park, they were flagged down to aid another female hiker who was dehydrated and dizzy. On Sunday, MSAR assisted in finding two missing hikers in Chatsworth. On Monday, the team assisted the fire department and veterinarians in the rescue of a horse in Decker Canyon. The animal needed to be righted up onto its feet after suffering from dehydration and other medical issues.