Whew! The 4th of July 5-day marathon is over and early Wednesday morning, aside from huge piles of trash being efficiently removed by Coastal Zone Management crews, the beaches returned to normal.
The holiday was a good one, with big, mostly well-behaved crowds and water that varied from calm to mildly choppy. We were steady for all 5 days but not overwhelmed. A big part of things seeming manageable was that we were well staffed. Most towers were covered by two guards, and we had a full complement of mobile patrols including a boat in the water. So, even when we had two or three emergencies happening simultaneously, we had enough to backfill those spots.
By the end of the day Tuesday our stats were impressive. 2,745 water safety talks for beach patrons, a boat rescue, 190 enforcements (42 were vehicles mostly on the west end), 64 medical responses (including 4 stingrays and 46 jellyfish stings), 22 lost children reunited with their parents, one rescue (thanks Coast Guard!). The reason that our rescue number was so small was to a large extent because by the end of the holiday we moved 30,219 people away from dangerous areas (rip currents, swimmers too far from shore, etc.).
There’s plenty of summer left, so as a reminder take a few simple safety precautions that can keep you and your family safe while enjoying all that our beaches have to offer. Of course, swimming near a lifeguard and avoiding rip currents are the most important. Rip currents in Texas typically occur near a structure like a jetty or pier. Obey warning signs and instructions from a lifeguard to be safe. If accidentally caught in a rip, stay calm and go with the flow. Call or wave for help if possible. If you’re a good swimmer, try swimming parallel to shore until out of the current, and then back to the sand. If you see someone in a rip, don’t go in after them. Multiple drownings often occur when a well-meaning Good Samaritan goes in without proper equipment or training. Instead, throw a floating object or line to them, like the buoy and throw bag found in the rescue boxes at the end of each rock jetty.
As a general rule, pick a lifeguarded area to swim. You are still responsible for your own safety, but they can provide an added layer of protection if needed. They can help with first aid, lost kids, or virtually any type of beach emergency. Remember to swim with a buddy, obey warning signs and flags, assign a “Water Watcher”, and don’t dive in headfirst. Of course, non-swimmers and small children should wear a properly fitted life jacket when in or around any type of open water or swimming area.
We are still looking at some pretty hot and humid weather so be sure and take precautions.
Overall, use good common sense. Know your limits. The ocean isn’t a pool or pond, so you should be extra careful. Then go have fun!