Grand Strand lifeguards eye Hurricane Irene beach, water threats

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) Swimming restrictions are being issued along some Grand Strand beaches Wednesday, as Hurricane Irene continues to churn towards the East Coast.

Lack's Beach Service made the choice around 8 a.m. Wednesday to keep swimmers from going no further than waist-deep in the water between 2nd Avenue Pier and the Springmaid Resort in Myrtle Beach. The decision overrode an ordinance in place that allows beach-goers to swim in chest-deep water.

Beach Manager Wes Cox says those limitations are expected to continue through this week, as Irene changes ocean conditions off of the South Carolina Coast.

"The inlanders - the people who don't come to the beach too often - are who we're really going to pay attention to," Cox added. "[We want to] make sure they don't get in any trouble."

Cox predicts if his lifeguards do have problems on the beach, the majority will stem from boogie-boarders and surfers looking for a cheap thrill from the waves produced by Hurricane Irene. Lifeguards are being asked to treat the days leading up to and following Hurricane Irene as a busy holiday weekend by keeping an extra close eye on swimmers.

"We'll have all of our vehicles out there. We've got our watercraft on standby," Cox said. "Anything and everything we do on a busy day, we're going to keep doing for a hurricane."

The approaching storm also has his lifeguards getting a refresher on heavy surf and rip current rescue techniques, in addition to neck, back and spinal injuries. Cox says those injuries are among the most common types of ocean-related emergencies.

The limitations as to what you can and can not do in the water will change from beach-to-beach along the Grand Strand. A spokesman for the City of North Myrtle Beach says they will not be added extra patrols on the sand in the event of rough weather.

Beachgoers are simply being asked to use common sense, pay attention to lifeguards and obey the colored flags flying at each lifeguard stand.

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