SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) -
Beach goers continue to swarm Suncoast beaches and with the holiday weekend around the corner, that’s where you can expect large crowds. Scott Montgomery, the Sarasota County Lifeguard Operations Chief states, “Weekday attendance is similar to weekends, and weekend attendance is similar to holidays.”
An increase in the number of people in the water means lifeguards and the Coast Guard will working diligently to ensure that everyone is safe. Before going into the water, it is important to remember the hazards you may face. For example, rip currents are likely to appear on local beaches. Rip currents are powerful, narrow channels of fast-moving water that can sweep you out into the open ocean. “That narrow channel of water, it’s usually dirtier because it has sand mixed into it, may have some foam and some seaweed with it. So, if you see that when you are getting into the water, avoid that area,” says Montgomery.
Know the difference between a Rip Current vs. Undertow
Don’t confuse a rip current with an undertow. Rip currents are much more dangerous, because they flow on the surface of the water, can be very strong, and can extend some distance from the shore. An undertow can occur when water sinks back downhill into the sea after a wave has carried it uphill onto the beach. Unless the beach has a steep incline, the undertow will probably not be very powerful.
If you happen to get caught in the rip current, you’ll want to stay calm and break the grip of the rip. Montgomery says, “If you are caught in a rip current, you feel you’re being pulled away from the shoreline, swim to your left or to your right, which is parallel to shore. That way you’ll be out of the rip current, and you can get yourself back to safety.” It’s also a busy time of year for boaters to be out enjoying Suncoast waters. Have a plan in place before arriving at the dock and getting on the water.
Petty Officer 1st class Kensley Raigeluw, who is the Executive Officer of Coast Guard Station Cortez says, “Make sure you have your life jackets on, enough fuel on your boat and file a float plan with your families. Where are you leaving? How long will you be gone? What route you’ll be taking?”
In case of an emergency, this information is vital to their search and rescue plans.
Droves of tourists and residents will line Florida’s beaches during the 4th of July weekend, and social distancing guidelines remain in place and are expected to be followed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“The pass that goes between Siesta and Lido, there’s a sandspit there and that’s where a lot of boaters tend to congregate on. We ask that boaters please practice social distancing where you are at least 6-feet apart, and don’t gather in crowds of more than 50,” says Montgomery.