Last weekend was the final day for the seasonal lifeguards to work. This means no more towers or tower lifeguards until next March. We’ll still have patrol units staffed with our full-time guards out until December, and they’ll be back out patrolling on Feb. 1, 2018.
We’ll also respond to 911 calls anytime day or night as we do all year long. But it’s a really good time to remind your family, friends, and loved ones about the basics for beach water safety.
The main thing to remember is that rip currents, which pull away from the shore out to sea, are generally strongest and most prevalent next to structures like rock groins and piers. So be sure if you swim to stay far from these areas and remember the longshore current will pull you parallel to the beach.
Pick a fixed object well away from the rocks and use it as a reference point. If you can’t just walk or swim in place, come to shore periodically and walk back down to the area you want to stay in.
Also remember not to enter the water at the ends of the island. The ship channel and San Luis Pass both have very strong tidal currents. These areas both have a history of drownings and should be avoided. If you fish, fish from shore.
Lots of people have been talking about the high tide event we had over the past couple of weeks. Actually, there were two high tide events back to back and we saw almost 4-feet-above-normal tides at times. Both the beach and bay were really full and we even experienced minor flooding on some roads and elsewhere. There were several factors that at times combined to cause this:
1. Full moon — when the moon is full, it exerts greater gravitational force on the ocean, causing a higher than normal high tide.
2. East wind — When the wind blows to Galveston from the east or southeast it blows across a greater distance of water than from the west. This piles the water up ahead of it causing the tides to be higher than normal. So a stiff east wind blowing for a few days can typically cause both the high and low tides to be a foot or more above what a tide chart (astronomical tides) would indicate. The week before Hurricane Nate came through had both a full moon and east winds, so we saw tides up to 3.7 feet above the average (mean) tide.
3. Storm surge — Nate’s spinning pushed water ahead of it which caused a storm surge. This repeated the event of the 3.7 foot above normal high tides.
There were times over the past couple of weeks that two or three of these factors combined to cause tides that were much higher than normal. It was a pain in some ways, but sure did keep people that fish and surf happy. Perfect clean waves and sunshine were a great way to close out the guarding season.