VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – A week before Memorial Day, lifeguards at the Oceanfront were already busy at work rescuing people from dangerous rip currents.
Chief Tom Gill with the Virginia Beach Lifesaving Service said if the rest of the summer is like Sunday, it’ll be a hectic one.
“Today is normal for a weekend in July, not the week before Memorial Day,” he said.
Before Memorial Day, there’s a standard amount of 12 lifeguard stands on the Oceanfront.
Gill said they definitely could’ve used the extra hands on Sunday.
“Our total number was about 260 people we pulled out last summer,” he said. “Today alone we pulled out over 75 people. And we’re not even in Memorial Day weekend yet.”
A storm over the Atlantic Ocean presented a high-risk warning for rip currents along Virginia and North Carolina’s coasts, resulting in red flags popping up all along Hampton Roads beaches.
“You see that red flag, just go talk to the lifeguard,” said Gill. “Find out what the restrictions are. Find out what you should be doing to keep yourself safe. The other thing we’re seeing already, and we saw a number of them last year, is some serious spinal injuries.”
Gill says the spinal injuries are caused by people diving into water that is shallower than they expect, adding people need to walk into murkier water, not dive in.
When someone gets stuck in a rip current, officials urge them to stay calm and stay above water by floating so lifeguards can see them.
Then when the current weakens, swim parallel back to shore, but don’t swim directly against the current.
“We want everyone to keep coming on down here but just stay real safe,” he said. “When you see the big surf out there, that means big rip currents. Big rip currents mean stay much closer to the shoreline and be really safe out in the water.”
They also say to find out when lifeguards get on duty and to locate their stands before heading into water with rough surf.