The busiest spring break week of the year starts April 13, 2019, with Mobile and Baldwin County schools taking their break. As crowds head to the beaches, red flags will once again be flying. That’s because of a storm system moving in that’s expected to create dangerous surf and rip currents.
Spring break is a time students like to let their hair down and forget their worries, if only for a week. That’s a concern for beach safety officials in Gulf Shores because thousands of spring breakers are expected to flock to the beaches this weekend and the surf’s about to get rough.
“We’re expecting large crowds. We’re also expecting large surf this weekend with forecasts between four to six feet so you throw those wave heights on top of high rip currents and large crowds, it has the potential to be a very busy week,” warned Battalion Chief, Melvin Shepard with Gulf Shores Fire-Rescue.
Conditions in Gulf Shores Friday, April 12, 2019 were relatively calm, with yellow flags posted, but that will be changing overnight. Shepard met with the National Weather Service Friday and said red flags will most likely be put up overnight. Folks were taking advantage of the calm before the storm, but were careful, nonetheless.
“I’ve told him, the waves can pull you out. You can think that you’re fine, but even at waist-deep, you know, if you’re not paying attention, they’ll drag you out,” Erica Engele said of her son who was playing in the surf. “I just don’t want any of my children to drown.”
“We’re watching out, making sure we don’t get too deep when the red flags are up, but the beach is still nice,” said Trevor Morton from Indiana. “The weather’s been good to us so, can’t complain too much.”
Lifeguards will be manning five stands along public beaches and patrolling on ATVs looking for problem spots and swimmers who are putting themselves in danger.
“We will approach people that we see swimming in areas that they shouldn’t be in and explain to them the dangers of where they’re swimming. Don’t take offense to it. The lifeguards are here to keep you safe and we want people to come down here,” Shepard explained. “We want them to enjoy the beautiful gulf coast, but we want them to go home happy and safe at the end of the week.”
Beach Safety officials expect the conditions to improve throughout the day Sunday and hope to go back to yellow flag conditions by early next week.