17 Beach Disasters (and What To Do When They Happen) - 30A


17 Beach Disasters (and What To Do When They Happen)

By: Carrie Honaker | Posted Jun 17, 2022

1. Going Overboard  (capsizing or falling off a boat)

• First, stay calm.
• Remember your “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” training, and seek out a lifeline.
• If you were not alone going overboard, do a quick headcount, and stay together.
• If possible, re-board your boat. If not, try to hang on so you don’t use up valuable energy trying to stay afloat. Plus, visibility is key, and you can’t get more visible than being attached to a boat.
• Hopefully, by this time someone on the boat has noticed your absence and thrown a buoy or lifejacket to help you stay afloat.
• Last, don’t tarry in the water. Get out as soon as possible.

2. Thunderstruck (Lightening; sudden bad weather)

Photo by: Susan Gunn Photography

Lightning is one of the true dangers at the beach. It can strike up to 10 miles ahead of a coming storm. And just for context, a bolt of lightning can vaporize sand when it strikes.

If you are swimming and you hear thunder, or see a storm approaching, get out of the water, dry off, and take shelter on higher ground. Avoid open-sided shelters like picnic pavilions or metal objects like fences.

Wait at least 30 minutes after the last lightning strike before returning to the water.

Be safe, check the weather forecast before heading out, and remember more people die from lightning than shark bites.

3. Seeing Double (Red Flags)

Red flag indicates high hazard conditions with high surf and/or strong currents. It should be obvious from the swelling ocean and visible crashing of waves. Yellow flag is medium hazard or moderate surf and/or currents. Green flag is low hazard reflecting calm conditions. Purple flag screams dangerous marine life is spotted.

Hey, and there could be fines so be like your car, green means go, yellow means caution (not speed up), and red means STOP! And, don’t get me started on Double Reds—it’s dangerous, you may get sucked out to sea, you will certainly pay a fine.

4. Fins To the Left, Fins to the Right

So, sharks. JAWS did a number on beach-goers for decades, but it is not the extreme danger you think. Sharks aren’t out there looking for a human snack. In fact, shark attacks are really, really, did I say really, rare.

But, let’s say you spot ol’ toothy. Follow these simple rules:

• Stay Calm. Don’t Freak Out. Sharks are looking for a tastier bite
• SLOWLY, get out of the way/water.
• Stay together if you are in a group—just like you should not head to the cellar in slasher movies, you should not separate when a shark is spotted.
• Playing dead does not work. Sharks are sensitive so if one is heading your way, use whatever you have to hit them, preferably in the eyes or gills.
• Stop worrying. Sharks are not the marine danger they have been stereotyped as—remember, you are more likely to be struck by lightning than bitten by a shark.

5. Losing Your Kid (and Your Mind)

Let’s be real. Kids wander, in department stores, on playgrounds, in a life-size sandbox, pretty much anywhere their curiosity takes them. If you realize this propensity for adventuring ahead of time, there are a few things you can do to prepare.

• Stay Calm. I am sensing a theme here…
• Have an updated photo on your phone, preferably from that day so you know what they were wearing.
• Pick a landmark you and your child agree on. If they get lost, they can seek it out.

If the unthinkable happens, immediately call 911 and start searching.

6. Rip Tides

Hopefully, you heeded the flags before hitting the water…you know, red means stop. If the unfortunate happens, and you are caught in one of these narrow, fast-moving channels of water, the best thing you can do is STAY CALM. Do you feel a bit of repetition here?

While staying calm, you should call, wave for help, and float. Do not try to swim back against the rip current. You will tire and be carried further. Do swim parallel to the shore, following the wave breaks out of the rip current.

And, don’t be fooled by sunny weather. Rip currents are not caused by weather. They are caused by internal ocean issues, like tides, and they can happen in water as shallow as two or three feet.

7. Drink Up  (preventing dehydration)

Everybody worries about sunburn in the direct sunlight, but dehydration is a serious concern when you are out in the hottest parts of the day. Especially, if you are partaking of a refreshing alcoholic beverage. You need two glasses of water to replenish your body from one beer, wine, or beverage of choice.

And, don’t think that Starbucks frappuccino will save you. Caffeine also sucks water from your body.

The key is to keep the water flowing, literally. Drink consistently throughout the day, eat high-water content fruits and veggies, like WATER-melon, yum.

Keep plenty of that high-quality H2O at the ready. Water doesn’t suck, as Coach Klein taunted, water hydrates.

8. Feel The Burn (Sunburn)

Nobody wants to get fried the first day of vacation and have to hide in the room for days recovering. Stay out of the red zone by applying lots of broad-spectrum sunscreen. Bonus, you can smell as tropical as your vacation destination.

But, sometimes we get excited and maybe forget to reapply, and boom, lobster central. There are some ways to ease your suffering.

• Take Ibuprofen to alleviate the pain
• Drink a lot of water
• Apply a soothing lotion…you know those bottles of green goop, they may help, but be sure they don’t have added alcohol or the sunburn won’t be the only thing stinging.
• Don’t forget to apply sunscreen early and often when you can go out in daylight again

9. Can I See Your License, Please? (proper Licenses and permits)

Who wants to think about licenses and permits when on vacay? I know, I know, but there are rules, and we have you covered for everything from furry friends on the beach to getting married on the sand. Learn more here.

10. Animal House (The Party Next Door)

As Otter said, “I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody’s part.” You could pay your neighbor a visit, maybe try to reason with them, make them feel guilty for disrupting your peace.

But, if a friendly knock doesn’t work, and they continue their shenanigans, document the offenses, maybe lodge a noise complaint, or take John Belushi’s advice, and start drinking heavily.

11. Sting Like a Bee (or a Jellyfish)

If you’ve walked the beaches, you have seen these sometimes colorful, sometimes bulbous, sometimes large creatures. But, even if you have not seen them on the beach, they are in the water, and they do sting. You may be under the impression that urinating on the sting—thanks Friends—will alleviate the pain, but that is incorrect. Instead, rinse with ocean water and remove any spines with tweezers.

Even more common, and more painful are stingray injuries. There is a simple action you can take to avoid an encounter—the stingray shuffle. Just shuffle into the water one foot at a time to create vibrations, giving the stingrays a heads-up something is coming their way. If you are stung, you will probably need to go to the emergency room.

12. Black Bears

Did you know black bears live at the beach? Some live right here off 30A in Point Washington State Forest, and are a protected species. We rounded up all the details about Yogi’s cousin here.

13. Wildfires

We’re back with our number one piece of advice, stay calm. If you are caught in a wildfire, there are a few steps you can take to try and protect yourself.

• Pull over and park in a cleared area.
• Roll up all windows and close vents.
• If you have a blanket or jacket, cover yourself to prevent smoke inhalation.
• Call 911.

But, preventing wildfires is an even better idea. Make sure you extinguish campfires when finished. If you see an unattended fire, report it. And, for the love of all that is right, only set off fireworks in clear areas where it is legal. Remember, Smokey says, only you can prevent fires.

14. We’re Not in Kansas Anymore (waterspouts)

According to Nat Geo: A waterspout is a column of cloud-filled wind rotating over a body of water. The water inside a waterspout is formed by condensation in the cloud. There are two major types: tornadic waterspouts and fair-weather waterspouts.” Either variety is a danger more to boaters than beachgoers. They can be anywhere from 50-150 mph, and no, firing objects into their path will not divert them.

If you are on a boat, and a collision is imminent, take down sails, close hatches, and head below deck.

15. Buried Alive (sand hole collapses)

Who hasn’t buried a sibling in the sand? I think it is a beach vacation rite of passage. But, those holes can be dangerous.

As sand dries around the hole, the structural integrity of “walls” weakens. Even a hole only a few feet deep can easily cave.

When disturbed it can suddenly collapse and prove deadly. Walls crumble around the person inside and can suffocate them quickly. So, build your sandcastles, but don’t dig too deep when constructing the moat.

16. Tropical Depression (hurricanes)

Hurricanes are no joke at the beach, and if you are ordered to evacuate, do it. Hotels can charge you a fine if there is a genuine evacuation order in place so though, hurricane parties have a romantic image, the storms can be devastating.

If you are not ordered to evacuate, stay inside and away from all windows. Usually interior rooms are best. Do not go outside to check things out—flying debris is common. And, more injuries come after the hurricane hits because of downed power lines, and falling trees.

Power outages are common. If you have access to a generator, you can keep your groceries cold, your fans operating, and maybe lights at night. And, maybe a blender to mix up some cocktails while you ride the storm out.

17. The Hangover

Perhaps you vacationed a little too hard last night, woke up in the same clothes as yesterday, you have a tattoo you do not remember, and a raging hammer has taken over your head. You might be suffering from a hangover. Cross your fingers you did not use your phone.

As a former bartender, I have a little advice.

• Hydrate…a lot.
• Eat something greasy—think patty melts, hashbrowns scattered, and smothered, covered—you get the picture.
• Aspirin…I like Goody’s BC powders for quick relief.
• Hair of the dog, especially a Bloody Mary.
• Sleep it off.

For more beachy stories, follow 30A on Facebook, YouTube & Instagram because we ❤ the beach!


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Carrie Honaker is a Florida-based freelance writer who is not sure where she will land next, but it will involve messy eating, a spicy Tempranillo, and finding the local dive bar. Her work has been featured in Wine Enthusiast, Bon Appetit, and others. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @writeonhonaker.