By Ann Reily
---- — Local beaches are packed, parking lots are filling up, and roads to the beaches are experiencing big traffic jams as thousands flock to the area to beat the heat.
But with temperatures expected to stay in the 90s through the weekend, there are also dangers of heat exhaustion and heatstroke.
Yesterday, the National Weather Service issued a heat advisory through 8 p.m., recommending that people drink plenty of fluids and stay out of the sun whenever possible. Similar advisories are likely this weekend.
If the beach is still on the agenda for the weekend, bring plenty of water, sunblock, and a hat and umbrella to block harmful rays. And get there early.
Both David Sheafer of Salisbury Discount House on Salisbury Beach and Jean Adams, outdoor recreation planner at the Parker River Wildlife Refuge, report that the shores were packed with sun seekers all day Thursday and yesterday.
“It’s extra-busy,” Sheafer said. “It’s a big crowd. The parking lots were all filled to capacity.”
Sheafer said he also noticed a huge line of cars waiting to get into the Salisbury Beach State Reservation. At times, traffic backed up for about two miles on Route 110 heading toward Salisbury Beach, and along Beach Road.
Sheafer’s store has been packed with patrons stocking up on beach supplies, including boogie boards, umbrellas and beach chairs. He even had to move up his delivery of goods, receiving a truckload of items to refill the shelves yesterday.
“Everybody’s happy that the sun’s out,” he said.
On Plum Island, Adams said the parking lots had to be shut down at different times both Thursday and yesterday. On Thursday, they were “full to capacity” at 9:30 a.m.
“That’s the earliest I can remember ever closing the refuge,” she said.
Adams did note that the turnover has been pretty quick due to the heat.
“It’s so hot on the beach, people aren’t staying a huge amount of time,” she said. “It empties out fairly quickly, and then we can refill it.”
With the refuge beach itself closed while the piping plovers are nesting, popular spots like Sandy Point are even more full than usual. Adams said that beach was full by 8 a.m. Thursday and 9 a.m. yesterday.
Although the visitors center at the refuge does sell water when it’s open, there are no water fountains or food stands. So Adams emphasizes the importance of planning ahead.
“It pays to prepare,” she said, noting that some beachgoers in the past couple of days have left to buy water and other supplies, only to return and find the parking lots closed.
But most visitors have been taking the right precautions and staying hydrated, Adams said. Similarly, both Newburyport and Salisbury police said there haven’t been any incidents of heat-related illnesses or other problems.
“It’s been relatively quiet,” Salisbury Sgt. Tim Hunter said. He said officers have been conducting extra patrols at the beach and throughout town to make sure people are staying safe.
The heat also attracts mosquitoes and greenheads, something else to be cautious of.
“This is what they love, very hot weather,” Adams said.
Not affected by the heat? The plovers, which “are doing fabulous this year,” Adams said.
“They’re well-adapted,” she said. “Nature is much tougher than humans are.”
Tips for beating the heat
Avoid strenuous activity.
Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing.
Drink plenty of water.
Limit alcohol and caffeine.
Avoid high-protein foods, which increase metabolic heat.
Stay indoors as much as possible. If you don’t have air conditioning, seek out places that do.
Use sunblock, and reapply often. Sunburns slow the skin’s ability to cool itself.
Never leave pets or children alone in closed vehicles.
Sources: National Weather Service, Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency