HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. (WSAV) — Hilton Head Island is a major tourist destination and many of those folks are now caught in the middle of a storm, or storm preparations.

Yellow flags on the lifeguard stand prove there are dangerous conditions in the water on Coligny Beach. Shore Beach Patrol is doing everything it can to keep folks safe. That first line of defense is the swimmers themselves.

“Not a day to learn to be in the water out here for the first time,” said Mike Wagner, with Shore Beach Service. “You see some people try to surf. Not a day to surf, just because the waves are big.”

Shore Beach patrols said the majority of the people on Hilton Head beaches are doing their part to stay protected and watch from a safe distance. About 20 lifeguards are on watch themselves with yellow or red flags warning folks about the surf dangers.

The storm surge could flood this entire beach. By Thursday the towers will be gone in place of trucks, where the 20 guards can monitor the entire beach without getting caught in the storm.

The biggest issue for them is rip currents.

“For the people that are used to being on Hilton Head, they are not used to rip currents at all,” Wagner said. “So the biggest things with a rip current is for the people that don’t understand is it is a current that will pull you out into the water and the general reaction to that is to panic and swim in. That’s when people drown because you can’t fight a rip current. The best thing to do is to swim parallel out of it.” 

“We want to remind residents and guests to stay off the bridges and the causeways when the weather starts getting in our area,” said Bob Bromage, Town of Hilton Head’s Director of Public Safety. “Increased winds, increased risks.”

When the winds ramp up, the decision about shutting down the bridges won’t be up to Beaufort County Sheriff’s or The Town. That is in the hands of the South Carolina Department of Transportation.

Hilton Head Island Fire and Sheriff will be at the ready as Ian comes in but will be limited in what they can do at the peak of the storm.

The hope is from all safety officials that on the water or the roads, people will protect themselves, so they won’t have to.

“Probably the best is to take a look at the beach and then head off,” Wagner said. 

Shore Beach Patrol says the best thing for anyone to do is stay out of the water if you aren’t confident in it. While they will be patrolling the beach Thursday, the best bet is to stay home and home it all inside.