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People still in water along the coast despite red flag warnings

Published: Aug. 19, 2021 at 5:05 PM EDT
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EMERALD ISLE, N.C. (WITN) - Ocean Rescue officials issued red flag warnings at Emerald Isle Beach as the beach has experienced heavier rip currents close to shore.

Officials with Ocean Rescue say the increase is associated with Tropical Storm Henri.

“Both local conditions and our life guards having a few rescues made us go ahead and make the decision with that tropical system off our coastline — our waters were becoming turbulent — we wanted to put that advisory out for beach goers to have a better understanding of what they were getting into if they were making those day trips down here,” said William Matthias, the coordinator of the Ocean Rescue and Fire Marshal of Emerald Isle.

Other beaches in eastern North Carolina have also issued red flag warnings in wake of Henri. Atlantic Beach recently issued their advisory, even though rescue officials say they have lost most of their life guards for the season due the start of the fall school semester.

Chief Mike Simpson of the Atlantic Beach Fire Department says even though they may be more short of life guards the department is prepared to spring into action if necessary.

“Essentially all of our fire department staff are lifeguards and then during the summertime when we get the lifeguard service up and running that’s just supplemental staff to help us with the larger call volume,” said Simpson.

Beach-goers, like Kathy Ortlieb, say they respect the ocean and have experienced rip currents firsthand with her son on prior trips to the water.

“We were off of our boat and we were just floating and got caught in one. I did get somebody on a jet ski, he actually came and pulled him out for me. He couldn’t get me at the same time but then my husband came with the boat. Rip currents are very scary. The worst part is being caught in one with your child,” said Ortlieb.

Despite being caught in a current, she says she still encourages her children to enjoy the ocean, but says they should “be smart” and know the safety recommendations when encountering a rip current.

Ocean Rescue officials say they have no intention of issuing a double red flag advisory, which would prohibit anyone from being in the water at all, but they say will continue to monitor the tropics as Henri makes its way to the coast.

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