Baldwin, Mobile county students hit beaches amid red flag warnings

ORANGE BEACH, Ala. (WALA) – Take a look around the Baldwin County beaches and you can quickly tell it’s spring break for the kids in our area.

Dozens of families and students took to the sand to enjoy this long awaited glimpse into summer with just a few things on their minds:

“Relaxation for sure and the beach. Woo!” Hannah Bell, a junior at Fairhope High School, said.

But even as parents work to protect their kids from the sun, beach safety director Melvin Shepard said it’s the waters that may be a bigger danger this Sunday.

“The surf doesn’t look as bad today. It’s only two to three feet, breaking real close to shore, but the rip currents are out here and they can be very dangerous,” Shepard said.

An incoming cold front is causing red flags to be raised and increased the chances of a rip current.

“When waves break real close to the beach, it can cause children to venture too far out. They get knocked over and then the back rush of that wave going back to sea can actually pull them under the next incoming wave,” Shepard said. “(It) is very dangerous, especially if parents aren’t paying attention to their children or they’re preoccupied with another child.”

Shepard said as of right now, there aren’t permanent life guard stands along the sands of Gulf State Park, but said towers will be erected starting around the second week of May. He said they will be staffed seven days a week.

For those who are coming to the beach this week, Shepard wants people to remember to not bring glass containers down to the sands and avoid digging holes deeper than thigh level.

“The holes on the beach are inherently dangerous to us as we respond to calls. Just the other day while looking for a missing child, I drove into a hole that was about a foot and a half deep in a vehicle,” Shepard said.

As for some businesses in the area, like Scoops Ice Cream on Highway 59, they said a packed beach doesn’t necessarily translate into a packed store.

“They’ve been here before, obviously. They live down here. If you live in Baldwin County, you’ve probably been to Scoops before. I mean, it’s right down the road,” manager Annie Rhodes said. “And as for Mobile, why would you come down and rent a condo when you’re maybe an hour away.”

But it brings plenty of happy customers regardless.

Shepard expects the red flag warning to stay up at least through Monday.

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