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Spring Break Update

Spring Break has been interesting this year. So far we’ve had quite a few people down on the island but the weather has alternately been very near perfect or awful. But every time the sun comes out the beaches suddenly fill up so there definitely are people here on the island.

Last weekend the water was in the high 50’s which kept lots of potential swimmers on the beach laying in the sun or making sand castles. But, contrary to predictions, the weather was beautiful with sunny days in the 70’s. Definitely Spring Break weather! We had very few incidents despite the crowd. Since that time, the water has warmed up quite a bit. We did beach water swims both Sunday and Tuesday morning and the water went from 58 to 64 in just 3 days.

Looking back over the last few months we’ve gotten quite a lot accomplished due to the hard work of our full time employees. Supervisor/Officer Kris Pompa singlehandedly has given water safety talks to over 9,200 kids in the area. Supervisor Mary Stewart made 18 recruiting trips to high schools, colleges, and community events. Supervisor/Officer Josh Hale has done a number of enhancements on our website including putting a recruiting video on the home page and a water safety information video under the “Beach Safety” tab. Supervisor/Officer Joe Cerdas has repaired all of our rescue boards and led the charge in refurbishing our lifeguard towers. And our newest full time employee, Supervisor Lauren Holloway, is nearing completion on the first phase of our virtual lifeguard museum project for the website.

We’ve also got some exciting enhancements on the beach for this season. Last year in the Fall we placed rip current warning signs and doggie bags at the base of every place you can access the sand along the seawall. The Park Board Tourism and Development Department designed accompanying signs that we’ve placed right beneath the rip current signs. These signs are attractive, bilingual signs that inform the public about the most important rules. There are icons to let you know to keep pets on a leash and to clean up after them, to not use glass containers or drink alcohol, and that prohibit camping and open fires. This is a game changer in letting the public know what the expectations are. Most people want to do the right thing and will comply if they understand what’s expected. Additionally, when we don’t let the public know the rules it’s awfully hard to enforce them.

Starting Memorial Weekend we will be patrolling the west end every day of the week instead of just weekends. We’ll also continue the special weekend San Luis Pass Detail that keeps people out of those dangerous waters and gets them home safely.

Finally, we will be starting a new program where at 10am on the Saturday of each holiday weekend we will give free public beach safety seminars at strategic locations along the beach front. More to come on that…

Warming Up

Finally! Spring feels like it’s just around the corner. After the long, long winter there’s finally that feeling in the air. The cold is still there but doesn’t seem to penetrate all the way to your bones and even if it’s cold in the morning you’re able to get by with a thin layer or just a t-shirt by the afternoon.

The water, however, doesn’t seem to know that it’s time for winter to relinquish its grasp. On Tuesday, we did a beach workout and were still wearing full suits and hoods, although boots and gloves weren’t necessary. The water temp was 58. Warmer air temperature means that people on stand up paddleboards have been surfing with either just a wetsuit top or even “bare backing” it while people surfing prone are still in full winter gear.

The spring breakers were undaunted by the cold water though. Each time the sun popped out or the wind died they suddenly appeared all over the beach. The first volleyball tournament of the season went off well at Stewart Beach. The lifeguards, shivering in their towers, had to move a number of them away from the rip currents near the jetties. There were, however, some days where it was just too cold to put the guards in the towers in the mornings. Fortunately we kept a number of them on standby knowing that the afternoon would warm up and as soon as the sun popped out and hundreds would suddenly show up. It seems like there were lots of people here on the island hanging out in restaurants, hotel rooms, The Strand, or one of our many tourist attractions waiting for that ray of sunshine so they could hit the beach.

This weekend is the last of Spring Break. It will be safe to drive down the seawall for a short time until summer is really upon us. No one will meander across the lanes in front of you with speeds varying between 5mph and 45. No one will pull a U-turn, almost hit you, and then post up by a potential parking space, unashamedly blocking traffic, while 5 people take 20 minutes to load two chairs and a cooler into the back of their vehicle. But enjoy it while it lasts, because soon it will be time to retreat to the “secret” way you have to move around the interior of the island!

This weekend the Houston schools and a handful of colleges are at the end of their Spring Break and the weather forecast looks pretty good, so we may see those big crowds we’ve been expecting. As it stands this far, the Beach Patrol has only made one rescue. It was a good one though. We, with the help of our police, fire, and EMS partners, saved a father and daughter from drifting off shore on a really cold north wind day. They likely wouldn’t have survived if someone hadn’t had the good sense to call 911.

And so it begins….