BEACH and OCEAN SAFETY INFORMATION
For Visitors to South Padre Island

FLAG ADVISORY SYSTEM

Surf Conditions
FLAG ADVISORY SYSTEM
sistema de aviso con bandera
....
-heavy surf
-dangerous currents
-oleaje fuerte
-corrientes Peligrosas
....
-calm to moderate water
-does not mean safe water
-agua calmada a moderada
-no asuma agua segura
....
-presence of
venemous marine life
-presencia de
vida marina venenosa
Absence of flag does not assure safe water
La ausencia de banderas no asume
condiciones de agua segura
Dial 911 for emergency
Marque el 911 para urgencias
As you enter beaches you will notice the Flag Advisory signs.



South Padre Island Fire Department's new Beach Patrol
South Padre Island Fire Dept. Beach Patrol


Before you jump into the waves, take a few minutes to read this important water
safety information and discuss it with your family and friends, it may save your life!!


Beachgoers need to be aware of the surf conditions and related currents. The waves you've come here to enjoy are irresistibly beautiful and enjoyable, yet powerful and dangerous and must be respected, even on the days when the surf is relatively calm. Taking simple precautions like wearing a lifejacket can easily avert a tragedy.
BE A RESPONSIBLE PARENT, PUT LIFEJACKETS ON YOUR KIDS

OCEAN SAFETY RULES
1. WEAR A LIFEJACKET IF YOU DON’T SWIM WELL. You buckle up in your car, so should your children buckle up their lifejacket when they swim in the surf. A lifejacket will SAVE YOUR LIFE, it is nearly impossible to drown if you are wearing a Coast Guard Approved Life Jacket. I have had the unpleasant task of pulling many lifeless bodies from the surf, all of them would be alive today if they had been wearing lifejackets.
2. LEARN TO SWIM
3 . BE AWARE OF RIP CURRENTS
4 . OBEY WARNING SIGNS AND FLAGS
5 . HAVE AN ADULT CHECK CONDITIONS FIRST
6 . DON'T SWIM ALONE
7 . STAY IN SHALLOW WATER DURING HIGH SURF
8 . NEVER LEAVE CHILDREN UNATTENDED
9 . DO NOT SWIM NEAR THE JETTY
10 . DON'T USE INFLATABLES IN THE SURF, USE A BODYBOARD WITH A LEASH OR OTHER FLOTATION DEVICE
11. DON'T OVERESTIMATE YOUR SWIMMING ABILITY
12. DON'T DRINK AND SWIM


Rip Currents

Rip currents (mistakenly called rip tides or undertows) are common and can be found almost daily on all South Padre Island Beaches. RIP CURRENTS KILL SWIMMERS EVERY YEAR HERE AT SOUTH PADRE ISLAND. Rip currents
occur around the world at "surf" beaches, including both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, the Great Lakes, and the Gulf of Mexico including South Padre Island. Rip currents are also the #1 cause of drownings. If you are caught in one, how you respond could make the difference between life and death. Unlike undertows, rip currents are shallow water processes that do not pull a person under. They form when water, piled against the shore, begins to return to deeper water. Typically, strong wind and swell waves push water over a sandbar allowing excess water to collect. Eventually, the excess water starts to return seaward through low areas in the sandbar, "ripping" an opening. Rip currents can be readily seen from the shore. You can spot a rip current by looking for objects or foam moving steadily seaward. Wave heights are also lower and choppier in rip currents. Since rip currents are NOT undertows, you can be pulled away from the shore but not pulled under the water. The most common mistake drowning victims make is to panic and try to swim directly toward the shore. Even the best Olympic swimmers are not able to successfully swim toward shore in the strongest rip currents. If caught in a rip current, simply remain calm and swim or paddle to the side and the surf will push you back towards shore. Do not hesitate to call for assistance.
Rip Currents are common, be aware!

Rip Current Index

Rip Current Outlooks generally use the following, three-tiered set of qualifiers:

Low Risk - Wave Heights 0-2' and/or Wind Speed less than 10 kts.
Wind and/or wave conditions are not expected to support the development of rip currents; however, rip currents can sometimes occur, especially in the vicinity of groins, jetties, and piers.

Moderate Risk - Wave Heights 3-5' and/or Wind Speed 10-20 kts.
Wind and/or wave conditions support stronger or more frequent rip currents. Only experienced surf swimmers should enter the water. Use a lifejacket, bodyboard or flotation device.

High Risk - Wave Heights 6'+ and/or Wind Speed greater than 20kts.
Wind and/or wave conditions support dangerous rip currents. Rip currents are life-threatening to anyone entering the surf. Stay in waist deep water or less!

-Rip currents are NOT undertows,
you can be pulled away from
the shore but not pulled
under the water.
-If caught in a rip current, simply
remain calm
and swim or paddle to the
side and the surf will push
you back towards shore.

FLAG ADVISORY SYSTEM

Surf Conditions
FLAG ADVISORY SYSTEM
sistema de aviso con bandera
....
-heavy surf
-dangerous currents
-oleaje fuerte
-corrientes Peligrosas
....
-calm to moderate water
-does not mean safe water
-agua calmada a moderada
-no asuma agua segura
....
-presence of
venemous marine life
-presencia de
vida marina venenosa
Absence of flag does not assure safe water
La ausencia de banderas no asume
condiciones de agua segura
Dial 911 for emergency
Marque el 911 para urgencias
As you enter beaches you will notice the Flag Advisory signs.


Riptides
Riptides are found in channels, passes and cuts through which large volumes of water travel from the bay to the surf during the tidal exchange. Normally swimmers are not found in these areas. Rip currents are commonly and mistakenly called riptides.


Holes, Sandbars and Dropoffs
The waves may SEEM calm at times and the ocean look safe, but the bottom is irregular and uneven with quick dropoffs and deep holes. These conditions change daily. When you step off the beach, in just a few steps you can be in 5-7' of water, this is very dangerous for children and non-swimmers. After this first trough, the first sandbar is around 50 feet out and can be a shallow as 1-2' on a low tide or much deeper on a high tide. There are many deep holes, even in shallow water. You may be wading in 2' of water and take one step and be in 6' of water. This is very common in the first trough close to shore. Wear a lifejacket and you won't disappear in a deep hole.

Longshore Currents
Longshore Currents are simply the current that moves along the beach, usually in the direction that the wind is blowing or the waves are breaking. You will notice the longshore current as you enter the water, causing you to drift along the beach. These currents can run as fast as 3mph. Not a hazard for swimmers, unless there is a north wind, the longshore current will sweep you towards the jetty where it will become a rip current sucking out to sea.

Tides
The tide plays an important factor in water depths in the surf. The tide range, or difference between high and low tide varies between 1 to 3 feet. High tide will cause more powerful waves to break closer to shore and deeper water near shore. A low or outgoing tide can greatly increase the rip current risk.


The Jetties


If the rocks are wet from waves,
DO NOT walk any further!



Jetties - Located at the southern tip of the island in Isla Blanca Park, the jetties are not designed for public access, although it is allowed. Never swim near the jetty. Many people have been swept off the rocks and injured or swept out to sea in the strong rip next to the jetty while attempting to walk out the jetty during high surf. The granite boulders are barnacle encrusted and urchin infested. Always bring some type of flotation device to be used for rescue in case someone falls into the surf. There is a strong rip current located next to the jetty. This rip current is the strongest and most dangerous on the entire Texas coast, and on big days it can suck you out to the end of the jetty into the "pit" where the biggest waves will break, and likely wash you back onto the rocks. If you get caught in the rip, simply remain calm and swim or paddle to the side away from the jetty and the surf will push you back towards shore. Do not hesitate to call for assistance.

South Padre Island's North Jetty - Great Fishing but use EXTREME CAUTION

 
Surf Rescue
If you notice a swimmer in distress in the surf, first have someone call 911. Then, before you ever attempt a rescue, be sure to take some type of floating object such as a bodyboard or inflatable float or you are very likely to also be a drowning victim.
As you approach the victim, present the float to the victim, keeping the float BETWEEN you and the victim, and continually reassure the victim and make your way towards shore. If you happen to be caught in a rip current with the victim, remember to paddle across the current, then back towards the beach.
Surfers click here for info on rescue by a surfer

Undertow


Undertow is a concern mostly for weak swimmers or the unfortunate non-swimmer. An undertow occurs when a wave is about to break on a shallow sandbar where a swimmer might be standing. The water will suck underneath the wave as it breaks. This "undertow" can sweep a weak swimmer off of their feet and into deeper water, and he may panic as the wave crashes over his head. The undertow disperses almost immediately until the next wave approaches, then the cycle starts again. An undertow can drown a person just feet from safety.

Stingray
Stingray are occasionally found in shallow surf and have a sharp barb at the base of their tail that leaves a small puncture wound, and injects a very painful venom. The pain will travel up the legs to the groin and armpits. APPLY HEAT IMMEDIATELY (never ice) directly to the wound. It is advisable to seek follow-up medical attention. Infection rate is 100%
Jellyfish
Whenever a blue advisory flag is flying, stinging jellyfish are likely in the surf. Reactions vary in individuals. Rinse with fresh water, in most cases the sting may be treated with vinegar and unseasoned meat tenderizer mixed in a paste, applied directly to the sting.



NO GLASS BOTTLES ARE ALLOWED ON THE BEACH.
DON'T LITTER.
PICK UP SOME TRASH THAT ISN'T YOURS.


Local Emergency Numbers
CALL 911 first for any emergency.

South Padre Island EMS (956) 761-5454

Cameron County Park System (956) 761-5494

U.S. Coast Guard Station South Padre Island (956) 761-2668

Cameron County Parks Police (956) 761-5283

(This Water Safety Information was written by local Ocean Safety expert Gene Gore with the purpose of educating visitors to
South Padre Island in the hope of preventing drownings. For additional questions or comments feel free to email Gene. )



Check out Galveston Beach Patrol website, very informative.

Gulf Coast Emergency Rescue Squad - Hurricane evacuation

 
 
 
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