Region in cool-down mode

Jonathan Cooper, 9, leaps into the Mystic River as Kameal Kalkhoran, 11, center, and his brother, Kamal, wait their turn in 90-plus degree heat on the Main Street dock in Noank on Monday.
Jonathan Cooper, 9, leaps into the Mystic River as Kameal Kalkhoran, 11, center, and his brother, Kamal, wait their turn in 90-plus degree heat on the Main Street dock in Noank on Monday. Sean D. Elliot/The Day Buy Photo

Apparently everyone had the same idea on Monday.

On a scorching hot day, shoreline residents as well as those who live inland headed for the cool breeze and even colder water of the beach.

That meant jammed roads, full parking lots and beachgoers competing for every inch of sand.

Rocky Neck State Park in East Lyme was closed to the public by 11:45 a.m. when its parking lot reached capacity, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection. In Westerly, police said Misquamicut State Beach was also full by the afternoon. The small beach at Stonington Point, was also full as was the parking lot.

In New London, Ocean Beach Park General Manager Dave Sugrue didn't let a full parking lot stop beachgoers. He directed cars onto side streets, since the parking lot was full for the second day in a row.

This is the sixth time the park's overflow lot has been used, which is "rare, " Sugrue said.

"We're gonna get everybody in," he said, expecting another onslaught of people in the evening for Classic Car Cruise Night.

"I've never seen anything like this," Sugrue said. "It's just been spectacular."

Sugrue said he's "looking at numbers that are the best we've seen in at least a decade," starting with June and continuing through the Fourth of July weekend.

The concession stands have not slumped in their sales either. Sugrue said the holiday is "the traditional cooler weekend," but there are things that families can't pack in coolers like soft serve ice cream or fried dough which sends them, sandy feet and all, to the stand.

"We're busting at the seams, everything is doing really well."

On Saturday, he said there were more than 14,000 people at the beach and on Monday he estimated another 12,000 made their way there.

He credits improvements to the park, increased marketing efforts, and a focus on local tourism but adding "all that is moot if we don't have sunshine."

The packed beach was a "sea of colorful umbrellas," he said. "The way Ocean Beach is supposed to be."

In New London, officials were planning for the continued heat wave.

They planned to open a "cooling shelter" today by expanding hours at the senior center at 120 Broad Street until 9 p.m.

"In the heat of the day, until the sun goes down, it's just a cool place for people to go," said the city's emergency management director, Reid Burdick. "You don't know who needs it."

He expected the center to stay open for several days this week, depending on usage.

It may get a lot, especially today, as Gary Lessor, Assistant Director of the Weather Center at Western Connecticut State University, said it will get "blistering hot."

The heat wave is not expected to break until Wednesday with temperatures falling into the mid-80s. But areas further inland will have to wait until Friday or Saturday to feel some relief.

"It is unusually hot for Southern New England, especially today," Lessor said. "Typically this time of year we do have high temps, but Tuesday will be extreme."

In addition to the high temperatures, Lessor said the dew point will hit close to mid-70's Tuesday, which is "uncomfortably hot" and that the air quality will be "awful."

"Today is the type of day that the only thing that elderly people and pets should do is be inside all day with AC and lots of water." Lessor said. "Bad air and excessive temperatures are perfect for heat stroke and heat exhaustion, which is exactly the type of weather we're dealing with today."

k.warchut@theday.com

j.hanckel@theday.com

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