VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Now that school is back in session, it usually means fewer people are hanging out at the Oceanfront, but it also means fewer lifeguards in the stands — so all the more reason to be cautious especially during hurricane season.
“It’s such a dynamic environment,” said Tom Gill, chief of the Virginia Beach Lifesaving Service. “Things are not just changing by the day, but by the minute, by the second. Anything can happen.”
Although the ocean looks a lot calmer Friday than it did this time last week, it can still pose a dangerous threat.
Red flags aren’t flying at the Oceanfront, but could be next week as we watch where Hurricane Lee is headed.
“A lot of expectations for a lot of moving waters, big surf and potential danger for the swimmers going out there,” Gill said.
Gill said lifeguards prepare by getting the word out about rip currents and the dangers in the water.
They do a lot of on-beach education on their ATV’s.
“Unlike every other first responder or public safety agency that responds to the call, we try to get ahead of it,” Gill said. “There’s not much time out here.”
Gill said they have 10 lifeguards in the stands at the resort beach.
They don’t have guards at the north end or Croatan Beach because some guards went back to school.
They’ll have guards through Sept. 18, then they go to patrol only until Oct. 8.
“The beauty is, better than most places, Virginia Beach still has lifeguards, still has people out here,” Gill said. “We still have people on the lifeguard stands, so you come out to the beach, and you see a big space with nothing and then you see a lifeguard in a lifeguard stand, go put your family in front of that lifeguard stand. Take advantage of what the city is offering, which is safety.”
On the Outer Banks, they’re facing the same struggles. Last week, ahead of Hurricane Idalia, Kill Devil Hills had seven lifeguards staffing their stands when they’d normally have 26 watching the water.
Ocean rescue supervisor Ben Battaile said it makes it more difficult to do preventative actions.
“It’s just a little bit harder for our guards to have a contact with every single person on the beach,” Battaile said, “especially when we have hundreds, if not thousands, of people still down here.”
And as both agencies focus on safety ahead of the storm, it’s important to be vigilant.
“Please keep a close eye on what’s going on out there,” Gill said, “and if it looks bad, don’t go in.”
View a demonstration by Super Doppler 10 meteorologist Steve Fundero on how to get out of a rip current.