Pre 4th of July

Hard to believe we’re to the 4th of July. Weather permitting, this could be a massive event, seeing as each weekend since the beach season started seems like a holiday weekend in both the best and worst of ways. Galveston needed our tourists back, and the hotel occupancy rates are just one of several indicators that they’re back, and back with a vengeance! But the corresponding workload on the emergency services and tourist related businesses has been pretty overwhelming.

Just to give a snapshot of the magnitude of workload my staff alone has been facing I’d like to share one important statistic over the past three years. “Preventative actions” are actions that essentially keep people out of harm’s way. Many of them involve moving people away from piers, groins, or anywhere else there are rip currents or tidal currents. But they can also encompass things like swimmers out too far, people in danger of being struck by lightning, etc. It’s generally a result of the combinaton of water conditions and crowds, and is probably the best indicator of how much work our staff puts in. Last week in 2019 we made 8,121, and the equivalent week last year the number climbed to 10,202. This year, the number was 17,506.

With this increased work on a staff that only recently got to 75% of our target number, it’s even more important that you and yours take safety precautions when you go to the beach. The United States Lifesaving Association has recently updated its safety recommendations and we have adapted ours to match that. So when you’re out there, please remember to Swim Near a Lifeguard, Learn to Swim, Learn Rip Current Safety, Never Swim Alone, Designate a Water Watcher, Alcohol and Water Don’t Mix, Feet First Water Entry, Life Jackets Save Lives, Observe Signs & Flags, and Beat the Heat & Block the Sun. An explanation for each of these can be found at We can’t stress enough that swimming near a lifeguard gives you that extra layer of protection and avoiding swimming near structures like piers and groins greatly reduces your chances of getting caught in a dangerous rip current. In addition to these, in Galveston remember you should also avoid swimming at the ends of the island, because of the strong tidal currents at the San Luis Pass and Ship Channel.

All of us will be out working, along with our network of other public safety groups, Galveston Marine Response, Wave Watchers, County CERT volunteers, and all the other groups that make it happen. And our Jesse Tree Survivor Support Network is on standby just in case we need them.

There’s nothing we like more than to see people come to the beach and make memories by spending time with friends and family. I love seeing all the kids playing in the water, and the smell of Texas BBQ and fajitas being cooked by all the families and friends spending time together. So have fun, be safe, and don’t check your brain at the causeway.


Photo by Travis Walser on Unsplash

Crabbing Trip Gone Wrong

The late afternoon sun danced across the water of the East End Lagoon. A six year old boy was crabbing in the shallow pool on the side of the road. As he walked back and forth his family fished, hung out, and enjoyed the beautiful Saturday afternoon. An occasional car crossed the bridge above the pool, temporarily drowning out the sounds of birds, lapping water, and the light breeze caressing the marsh grasses.

A gently current caused by an outgoing tide flowed through the pool. The lagoon emptied slowly into the pool through a large pipe under the bridge and exited into the ship channel through a set of 5 smaller pipes. The boy wandered close to one of these smaller pipes.

All that water has to get through pipes only about 3 feet in diameter. Near the pipes the gentle current turned into a jet of unrelenting force. The boy was sucked in.

The boy’s mother screamed as she saw him pulled under the water and into the dark pipe.

Though water has a life of its own, it follows set rules. It shows neither malice nor mercy. It can have a tremendous effect on its environment. Where it leaves this particular pipe it scours out the sand bottom leaving an area that is deep and dangerous with strong currents. A number of people, many of them children, have lost their lives through the years at this exact spot.

The woman saw her son’s little body as it spat from the tunnel on the other side. With superhuman quickness she jumped in where the current flowed out and managed to swim over and grab him before he succumbed to the force of the water, like so many before him. She towed him around the source of the current to the rock wall. Pushing him to safety she slipped back onto the rocks, breaking her ankle and sustaining a number of cuts and abrasions. But she didn’t stop until he was safely on the ledge with other family members.

This is a story of heroism and more than a little bit of luck. We are so relieved for this family that they all returned home with only minor injuries and a story that will no doubt be told and retold for years to come. But it’s also a story of personal responsibility.

In a developed country like the USA, we are fortunate to have layers of protection, even to a certain extent in the natural environment. Because of the history of this area, the Beach Patrol maintains quite a number of safety signs warning of the dangers. We make frequent passes enforcing the rules that prevent swimming in the ship channel and in this pool. But with the resources we have and 33 miles of beach to protect we can’t be everywhere all the time. Nor can our public safety partners.

Guards and signs are critical, but you are the most important and effective layer of protection.