LONG BEACH PENINSULA — Hazy from smoke and smelling of sulfur, the Long Beach Peninsula’s Independence Day celebrations were not dampened by fears of covid-19.
Earlier in the week, officials worried the holiday would be exceptional rowdy, due to July 4 landing on a Saturday. But it was a pretty typical year, and the festivities weren’t over the top, said Flint Wright, police chief for the Long Beach Police Department.
“It was a good Fourth,” Wright said.
Cars did seem to be spread farther up the beach than in years past, which could be due to people trying to keep some distance between groups, he said.
There was a constant stream of traffic through the beach approaches and cars filled the parking lots. People left their faces uncovered for the most part and discarded masks littered the beach along with the remains of mortars and cakes.
Tate Seals, 47, and Heather Seals, 46, said they came from Longview, Washington to perform a great show and mark the holiday with their core group of friends.
“We’re so glad they left the beach open,” Heather Seals said.
The couple got married outside the Chautauqua Lodge 25 years ago and have spent the July Fourth at the beach for the past two decades. This year, the couple spent $2,020 on fireworks for their personal display, which seemed fitting, Heather Seals said.
“It’s something the family loves to do together so it’s worth it,” she said.
The Seals bought wholesale, and estimated the retail cost for their display to be closer to $5,000.
Another group of about 10 people from Vancouver, Washington woke up at 5:30 a.m. to secure the first picnic table near the entrance of the Bolstand Avenue beach approach. The group was made up of two families who spent a combined $1,700 on their fireworks.
“We’ve been coming to this same spot six or seven years,” said Matt Mohagen.
One group said they came from Zillah, Washington, in Yakima County. One group said they came up from Portland. Another traveled down from Tacoma.
The Washington State Department of Transportation maintains a network of 100 permanent traffic recorders within the state. Two are in Pacific County: One is near the county’s south end, at the intersection of U.S. Highway 101 and state Route 401, just north of the Astoria-Megler Bridge; the other is near Nemah, at the intersection of U.S. 101 and state Route 4.
Both highways showed a spike in traffic leading up to the holiday.
To measure traffic flow changes from year to year, the Transportation Department compares traffic counts to the average amount of traffic per the day of the week for the previous month and year. So, to compare traffic from Thursday, July 2, to the previous year’s traffic data, analysts average the amount of traffic recorded for each Thursday in July 2019.
On Thursday, July 2, the recorder north of the Astoria bridge reported about 18.3% more vehicles compared to July 2019. The next day, Friday, July 3, traffic was up by 13.2%. In total for those two days, the recorders counted more than 22,000 vehicles traveling through the intersection.
Traffic near Nemah also swelled, with a 9.3% increase on Thursday and a 6.3% increase on Friday, with a total count of more than 9,000 vehicles.
Washington State Patrol Sgt. Bradley Moon said it was obvious more cars were on the road. Patrol assisted other agencies in making about seven DUI arrests during the weekend.
Pacific County Fire District No. 1 Chief Jacob Brundage said his district responded to about 40 incidents from July 3 to July 5. This included dumpster fires as well as grass and building fires.
“The Fourth of July is always busy for the fire department,” Brundage said in an email to the Observer Monday, July 6.
The amount of activity was consistent with previous years, Brundage said.
Fireworks began in earnest at about 9 p.m. Saturday, with massive sky high explosions up and down the beach. Things calmed down near the time they were supposed to, at about midnight, Wright said.