MARGATE — Lt. John Toland sat on the back porch of the city’s Beach Patrol headquarters at noon Tuesday and looked out at the crowd of people dotting the sand.

“This is the calm before the storm,” he said. “This holiday weekend is going to be insane.”

Throughout South Jersey, hundreds of thousands of visitors began heading to the shore even before the weekend began, trying to make the most of the midweek July Fourth holiday, lifeguards report.

In Atlantic and Cape May counties, beach patrols geared up Tuesday for the second weekend surrounding the holiday, when locals and daytrippers alike will cover the beach.

In Atlantic City, where Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City and Ocean Resort Casino opened last week and the Sam Hunt beach concert drew thousands Sunday, lifeguards recorded 82 rescues, 31 medical cases and 34 lost children returned to their families this past weekend, Beach Patrol Chief Steve Downey said Tuesday.

“We’re anticipating very large crowds tomorrow,” Downey said. “I’m looking at it right now, and (there are) 1,000 people in the water right in front of me.”

Training Officer Bryan Theiss, of the Ocean City Beach Patrol, had a hard time putting a number to the amount of people on the island this week but said it’s in the tens of thousands.

“The crowds are already here,” he said. “It’s extremely busy. You just notice it driving around the island.”

During the summer, 55 lifeguards patrol 1.7 miles of Margate beach, where more than 100,000 people can be found on a good Saturday during the summer, Toland said.

With July Fourth falling on a Wednesday this year, Toland said, many people extended their weekend vacations.

And, he said, lifeguards can see 50,000 more people on the beaches during the holiday weekend alone.

Last weekend, Margate lifeguards recorded 58 rescues and 43 medical calls, he said. The number was low, he added, in part because of the calm water.

“The water was in great condition,” he said. “No rip currents.”

On a day with a strong rip current, one lifeguard stand can make 30 rescues, he said.

The forecast through the weekend calls for calm waters, he said.

Toland’s big concern this summer is the three outfall pipes that jut out from the beach. They were put in last year during the dredging project and help with drainage, but they can be hazardous to swimmers.

In addition to posting signs, lifeguards have been keeping an eye out to make sure people don’t swim near the pipes, he said, adding that in a step, the water can go from ankle-deep to 12 feet deep.

“Lifeguarding is all about being proactive,” he said. “Having good eyes and knowing what’s going on.”

Downey doesn’t think this weekend will be as busy as last.

“Obviously, with the concert last week and the casino openings, we were maxed out in Atlantic City beach-wise,” he said. “I still anticipate it being very busy with the heat and humidity.”

Press Meteorologist Joe Martucci predicts temperatures around 90 degrees for the rest of the week.

Theiss said Ocean City lifeguards made quite a few saves last weekend due to rip currents, but the water is calmer now and projected to stay that way until a stronger swell comes in over the weekend.

“We’re packed from the water’s edge to the sand dunes,” he said. “It’s hard to grab a piece of property on the beach — it’s that crowded.”

Contact: 609-272-7241 Twitter @ACPressMollyB

Staff Writer

My beat is public safety, following police and crime. I started in January 2018 here at the Press covering Egg Harbor and Galloway townships. Before that, I worked at the Reading Eagle in Reading, Pa., covering crime and writing obituaries.

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