(July 6, 2018) Despite Independence Day falling mid-week this year, the oppressive heatwave that smothered the Mid-Atlantic region for the past few days kept a steady flow of tourists seeking cool ocean breezes to celebrate the Fourth of July holiday.
Susan Jones, Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association executive director, said extreme humidity was likely a boon for the resort last weekend.
“Hot weather helped fuel the crowd,” she said. “Whenever the Fourth falls in the middle of the week, it’s certainly not ideal to have a crazy busy weekend.”
Shawn Harman, co-owner of Fish Tales and Bahia Marina on 22nd Street, said business picked up last weekend and shows no signs of slowing soon.
“We were pleasantly surprised. We’ve been busy all weekend,” he said. “We’re expecting two big weekends and a big week between.”
Noting that humidity hits harder on the western shore, Harman said a stark difference was discernable even just a few miles inland from the resort.
“I went to Salisbury today and it was hot there,” he said.
“It’s got to be miserable, but the water temperature has been perfect.”
Ocean City Beach Patrol Captain Butch Arbin, who has been on duty for the last 46 Independence Days in Ocean City, said beaches have been more crowded than usual for a mid-week holiday.
“This past weekend, because of the weather, that really made a difference,” he said.
In addition to Mother Nature dishing out excessive heat, Arbin said last weekend’s full moon brought an extra element of danger for swimmers.
“The full moon feeds into rip currents,” he said. “It makes the difference between low and high tide more dramatic.”
Arbin estimated lifeguards made nearly 700 rescues since last Thursday.
“The sand is burning hot, and people can’t walk as easily, so lots of burned feet are being treated,” he said.
There were also a significant number of children who got separated from their parents at the beach last weekend, Arbin said.
“With the sand being so hot, people tend to congregate in larger numbers closer to water [which] helps kids get lost,” he said. “It makes it harder for kids to find parents.”
With increased staff and stands set up along the beach, Arbin said although typically a nightmare scenario for parents, the Beach Patrol has a stellar record for locating wayward kids.
“We deal with thousands of lost kids every year and have a 100 percent return rate,” he said.
Assateague Island National Seashore has also been inundated with visitors, according to Public Information Officer Liz Davis.
“This is high season and we’ve been very busy,” she said. “Parking lots have been full, especially between 11-2 p.m.”
To avoid driving repeatedly through a packed parking lot looking for the that elusive spot, Davis suggest visitors time excursions outside peak times.
“You want to try to get out there early or wait to come out after 2:30 p.m.,” she said.
Assateague Island campsites have also been at full capacity, Davis said.
“They can be booked up to six months in advance and are usually reserved early, especially July 4th” she said. “From mid-June until Labor Day, campsites are typically full.”
Four-wheel drive vehicles can still pay a fee to drive on the beach, but the presence of nesting birds has restricted access in some areas, Davis said.
“The oversand vehicle zone is open but reduced from the entire 12.5 mile [island] stretch,” she said. “We are still allowing 145 vehicles on the beach between KM 16-21.”
For more information about Assateague Island National Seashore visit nps.gov/asis.
Estimating Ocean City crowd totals by room capacities may be slightly deceiving this year, Jones said.
“Rooms are not 100 percent sold out,” she said. “The supply has grown in the last few years and because of all the new rooms, it’s been a little slow to kick off.”
Despite the variable numbers for room occupancy, Jones said on Monday judging by the deluge of rental boats and commercial vessels crowding area waterways, the holiday looks to be attracting ample crowds.
“I was out on the water yesterday and it was crazy busy,”
he said. “It seemed like a strong weekend.”