Snakes and Social Media

I love spring on the beach. Fog, sun, hot, cold, empty beach, people. It’s a time of transition that doubles back on itself repeatedly. One day it’s cold and empty and foggy and the next it’s warm and there are a couple hundred thousand people swimming around.

One thing that always entertains when the world starts to warm is that lots of people suddenly re-realize that the beach is part of the natural environment. I guess they forget over the winter that it’s not just a big water park, but is instead a thriving ecosystem with fish, birds, crabs, jellyfish, and even snakes. Realistically, the threat of these creatures is extremely minimal when compared to the risks of driving to the beach through traffic or swimming in areas known to have rip currents. But the news is always looking for a new angle. Giving the old “Spring Break” coverage a makeover by adding some footage of a shark being pulled up by a fishermen or the rare sighting of a snake that ventured out of his normal home of a sand dune does the trick nicely.

Of course the best way to avoid any unpleasant encounter is to keep your eyes open, obey warning signs, and to follow safety recommendations. Some of the most important of these would be not to mix drinking with driving or swimming, swimming near a lifeguard, avoiding areas near groins, and shuffling your feet when walking through the water.

Despite some of us realizing the natural environment is… well, natural, Spring Break went really well overall. Somehow the weather worked out to be just about perfect. Lots of foggy or cool mornings followed up by sunny weather in the 80’s. The water cooperated as well with temperature around 70 (cool but bearable), and moderate to mild surf conditions. Many of our guards were back “riding the pine” and they were hard at work. We got by with very few serious incidents but the guards collectively moved over 2,500 people out of dangerous areas with rip currents, submerged debris, or too far from shore. They worked hard and spent a lot of time in the frigid water. Hard to imagine what would have happened if they hadn’t been out there though. The beaches were literally packed with hundreds of thousands of people.

The crowds were well behaved though. We had very few problems along the seawall or at Stewart Beach and East Beach Park (Apffel Park). There were a few issues on the west end but the Galveston Police Department handled them well as usual. Social Media is a real force to reckon with from a law enforcement and safety perspective. Crowds of hundreds of high school kids would seemingly materialize at the San Luis Pass or Sunny Beach. Finally, a couple of proactive officers got one of the revelers to tweet that the party was over and they all pretty much vanished back over the causeway.

And now we’ll do it all over again for Easter!