Late Sunday afternoon, about 6 o'clock, islanders were alarmed to hear sirens wailing. I had just come off the beach when I saw first the deputy's vehicle, next Park Service trucks, then the EMS pickup come screaming down Highway 12 with blue lights flashing. The Park Rangers stopped to pick up the lifeguards (they had just gotten off duty), then rushed up the beach. I could only think the worst.
Sadly, my fears were confirmed. Somewhere north of the campground a swimmer had been swept out to sea and drowned.
I had noticed rip currents forming. The lifeguards had even posted a sign near their stand to keep people safer. Unfortunately, rip currents can be deadly. And people (especially those not familiar with ocean swimming) often underestemate the power of the surf. Rip currents, in particular, can overpower even the strongest swimmer in an instant.
Please enjoy our beaches. They are among the best, cleanest, and most beautiful in the country. But learn how to recognize rip currents and how to escape from them (they are narrow and powerful, but swimming parallel with the beach will let you get out of their grip). And remember, the National Park Service provides lifeguards at the beach just north of the airstrip. Don't hesitate to use that beach.
Our sincere condolences to family and friends of the young man who lost his life on Ocracoke over the weekend.
Take a journey back in time with our latest Ocracoke Newsletter. You can capture some of the thrill of riding on the old mailboat Aleta by clicking here.