Beach safety for Memorial Day weekend: Bring sunscreen and avoid rip currents

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry is asking people to be safe as Jax Ready issued yellow flag alert for Duval Beaches. News4Jax Reporter Brittany Muller was at St. Augustine beach speaking with families who were soaking up the sun.

ST. AUGUSTINE BEACH, Fla. – Last year, most Northeast Florida beaches closed because of the pandemic but opened just in time for Memorial Day weekend with restrictions. With coronavirus infections dropping around the country and more than 50% of adults fully vaccinated, there are NO restrictions in place at the beaches this Memorial Day weekend.

While there is only a moderate risk for rip currents this holiday weekend, it is important to remain calm if you get caught in one. Then swim parallel with the shoreline until you pull out of the current.

RELATED: How to survive a rip current

Remember, even if you’re a strong swimmer, go into the water with a buddy. Those who are not strong swimmers are not recommended to go beyond knee level in the water.

Marine rescue says you can easily spot a rip current by its foamy and choppy surface. The water in a rip current can be dirty brown, from the sand being turned up, and moves rapidly out to sea.

Rip currents are the most deadly weather-related event in Florida, claiming over 25 lives each year. We saw two drownings in Northeast Florida alone last week.

RELATED: Body found morning after man disappeared in Huguenot Park surf | Man pulled from rip current dies at Nassau County hospital

Melaina Clouse from Gainesville is not taking her eyes off her two boys who were boogie boarding.

“We always have a talk with them on the way to the beach. I think people just need to pay attention to the flags pay attention to the warnings,” said Clouse.

Clouse was here this time last year as well.

“It does feel a little bit more relaxed this year than last year,” she said.

The surfers, shell pickers, and sunbathers packed St. Augustine beach on Saturday. That’s why having St. Johns County will have extra lifeguards, deputies and officers to make sure everyone is staying safe.

“We have definitely noticed a lot more people and a lot more security around so that’s nice to see,” said Amanda Greco, visiting from the Keys.

Lifeguards will be out on St. Johns County beaches from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Marine rescue will also be out patrolling.

“Stay just to stay safe on our beaches,” said Sgt. Joshua Underwood, St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office Air & Marine Operations. “All of our boat crews are out this weekend, along with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission and our aircraft are in the air to assist patrol guys or beach deputies or marine deputies if needed.”

Sgt. Underwood asks beachgoers to pay attention to the warning flags.

  • Yellow flags indicate a medium hazard level that could include strong currents and surf.
  • Red flags indicate a high hazard with stronger currents and more dangerous surf conditions.
  • Purple flags indicate dangerous marine life in the area.
  • The absence of a flag does not mean there is no danger,

St. Johns County says beach driving is allowed from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Passes are required. Passes can be purchased with cash only at any beach access ramp. For information about beach passes, visit St. Johns County lists the following rules for beach driving:

  • Vehicular traffic must remain in the designated driving lanes as identified by cones.
  • Parking is allowed on the west side of the driving lane between the cones and the dune.
  • Parking on Vilano Beach is parallel parking only on the east side of the driving lane.
  • The maximum vehicular speed allowed on the beach is 10 mph.
  • Vehicles may not enter the beach at the Fort Matanzas Ramp.
  • All vehicles are required to stop at all beach ramps and yield to all pedestrians.
  • Soft sand conditions may exist and only 4x4 vehicles may be allowed on some beaches.

Beach driving conditions are expected to change throughout the day at each access ramp. For the most up-to-date information on beach access and driving conditions, download the Reach the Beach mobile app, or follow St. Johns County Beaches on Facebook or Twitter (@SJCBeaches).

The county is offering a free shuttle to Mickler’s Landing and the Pier from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday through Monday. It’ll run every 20 minutes, weather permitting. The Mickler’s Landing Beachfront Park shuttle runs from Cornerstone Park at 1046 A1A North to Mickler’s Landing Beachfront Park, which provides direct access to the beach. The St. Johns County Ocean and Fishing Pier shuttle runs from St. Augustine Beach City Hall at 2200 A1A South and the Pier parking lot, which provides direct access to Pier amenities and the beach.

And you’ll need that sunscreen if you’re heading out here — it’s a hot one!

RELATED: Did you know many health insurance plans will reimburse you for sunscreen?

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