North Carolina

After four drownings on Emerald Isle, beach town shares tips to stay safe this summer

Seven people have drowned off North Carolina’s beaches already in 2019, and four of those were in Emerald Isle.

The Emerald Isle fatalities include two high school students from Wake Forest, a Marine stationed at Camp Lejeune, and this week a 48-year-old man from Jacksonville, North Carolina, who was one of four people pulled from a rip current.

As the summer beach season heats up, the popular beach town’s police department released a new set of beach safety tips.

The question-and-answer style release from the Emerald Isle police department says the town rescued 319 people last year.

“It is quite a challenge to cover the twelve plus miles of ocean strand and a like amount of sound and inlet waterways. Despite these substantial efforts by our lifeguards, police and rescue personnel, the Town’s limited resources cannot be everywhere all the time,” the town says.

“Individual accountability must be part of any successful strategy to address concerns and this is particularly important when dealing with public safety matters,” the release notes.

Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, the town has lifeguards posted along the beach and uses a series of flags to tell beachgoers what the conditions are in the water. The flags are green, yellow, purple, red or double red, meaning two red flags.

“First you should know that Emerald Isle is always at a minimum level of yellow flags. Emerald Isle never flies green flags because we believe that there are always inherent dangers when entering the ocean and you should always use caution,” the town says.

Double red flags mean no one is allowed in the water. Purple flags, which are very rare, mean there could be dangerous marine life along the beach, the town says.

You can check current ocean conditions on the town’s website to see if it’s safe to swim.

Other tips include:

  • “What can I do if I see someone in trouble?” Always call 911 first, the town says, and if you’re a strong swimmer you can take a flotation device and try to reach the person.
  • “Use common sense and take personal responsibility. Check beach conditions before you go out and know what the warning flags mean. If the water looks rough, don’t go in.”
  • Do not allow children in the water unattended. “If you are more than a foot away, you are too far away from a child. Ocean currents can be extremely strong and can sweep adults off their feet in knee deep water. Children should always be in a Coast Guard Approved flotation device when in the ocean.”
  • Do not swim alone, ever.
  • “Don’t assume that the calmest water is the safest place to swim. The area where you don’t see waves breaking is usually where a rip current is located.”

Related stories from Durham Herald Sun

Charles Duncan covers what’s happening right now across North and South Carolina, from breaking news to fun or interesting stories from across the region. He holds degrees from N.C. State University and Duke and lives two blocks from the ocean in Myrtle Beach.