TYBEE ISLAND, Ga. (WSAV) — The storm that was Emily passed more than two hundred miles off the coast of Tybee Island, but it still churned the waters enough to cause problems for some swimmers at Georgia’s favorite beach. Monday, Tybee Ocean Rescue pulled more than a dozen swimmers who were in trouble from the waters in Chatham County. Lieutenant Walker McDowell says some of the people who needed help were overcome by the rough surf, while others were caught in rip tides. McDowell says the yellow flags were flying to warn the public of an elevated danger due to water conditions. “Typically with storms coming in we we see a lot of rip currents and a lot of times the wind will pick up and create bigger waves for us which causes a problem for swimmers. The water was really rough. We had a lot of rip currents and people were getting pushed into the pier a lot, so we had a lot of rescues from that and then and it’s pretty typical for us to have rescues in the Back River, so we had a few of those as well it was really rough back there too.”” said McDowell.
The problems were exacerbated by people who ignored multiple warnings to get out of the water. “Yeah, I mean they definitely have cases where they are advising the same people for or five times a day to do something and they don’t listen and then end up getting sucked out by a rip current or getting smacked into the pier after being advised multiple times, so it’s definitely is a problem.” McDowell said. Tybee city code has an answer to the problem on the books. There’s a law making it illegal to ignore orders from lifeguards. Officer T.J. LeGuin with the Tybee Island Police Department says the law is enforced when lifeguards call in reports of beach-goers ignoring safety directives. “We answer those pretty regular. We do. People take their safety into their own hands and don’t believe the lifeguards know what’s best out here on occasion.” LeGuin said. The charge is “Failure To Obey A Lifeguard”, which is a misdemeanor, but it carries a major fine. It’s $1,000 dollars plus court costs, which tack on another $564 dollars. “That’s how serious we take it, like I said, because the whole safety issue.” LeGuin said.
No serious injuries were reported Monday and no citations for ignoring lifeguard orders were issued. Those who ignored safety advice and had to be pulled from the water, there were 8 assists reported and 5 full rescues, coming face-to-face with the danger may be enough to teach them to listen to the orders of the people on the beach who are there to keep them safe. “If we are telling people to get out of the water it’s for a reason. Like I said it was really rough yesterday so we had a yellow flags all day and multiple rescue so it’s better to just be on the safe side and do what we say even if you think you’re a really good swimmer or not.” said McDowell.