Swimmers brave Gulf despite double red flag, shark warnings

ORANGE BEACH, Ala. (WALA) – They may be hard to spot from the shore, but the sharks are out in plenty in the waters by Perdido Pass. And although they are native to the area, the sheer number did create some concern.

“When we did start getting pictures sent to us of the large number of sharks, we decided it’s safest if we go ahead and close the area that we keep getting the pictures taken at,” Melvin Shepard, beach safety supervisor for Orange Beach, said.

Double red flags were placed along the beaches east of Alabama point to Wind Drift condominiums. Meaning the waters are closed. Beach officials said not only are those areas not safe for swimming, going in the water there is also illegal.

“It’s an ordinance to the city, that the city passed last year. So it is finable. It’s also subject to arrest, depending on the person’s attitude. So it is unlawful to enter the water on double red flag days. I mean, it is for their safety,” Shepard said.

Some people, like Nashville native Keith Howland, from out of town didn’t know what the red flags were warning against when he and his daughters went swimming.

“I asked some folks who were sitting on the beach why nobody was swimming and they said, ‘Well we haven’t seen any sharks yet, but they say they’re out there.”

However he was fare from the only one who didn’t heed the red flag warnings. Shepard said the spike in the shark sightings may be due to the activity of the red snapper season.

“Once snapper season’s over, and things go back to normal as far as not having fish carcasses dropped in the water, that they’ll move along,” Shepard said.

And when the population does return to normal, there are some tips to keep yourself safe around sharks.

“Avoid swimming when the water’s murky, avoid swimming early in the morning and late in the afternoon when there’s low light visibility,” Shepard said.

And he stresses that while the odds of being bitten by a shark are low, while the population is high, it’s best not to take a risk.

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