As we start thinking about stepping into the sand at our favorite Long Island beaches this summer, it’s also a good time to think about staying safe at the beach, whether it be from bacteria in the water, high surf or animals. Here are four things to know about the beaches.
Beware the Sting
Sharks get a bad a rap. Jaws may have scared us all out of the water at some point, but you should worry about the sting more than bite. The population of jellyfish is exploding in part due to global warming not to mention those sneaky stingrays that like to hide under the sand. You can beat the stingrays, which sting in self-defense, by shuffling your feet when stepping in the water. As for the jellyfish, heed the warnings.
Our coastline is in a state of constant change. Sea levels are rising and coastlines are eroding. Storm surge, bluff failure and flooding from high rainfall events all contribute to coastline erosion. In the 1990s, coastline erosion along the south shore of Long Island was estimated to be 1 to 2 feet a year but more recent surveys by the U.S. Geological Survey reported beaches along the southern coast of Long Island actually appear to be growing slightly and a geophysical survey following Hurricane Sandy showed that the storm did not significantly disrupt the barrier system that protects Long Island from long-term erosion.
Check the Water Quality
It’s not uncommon for beaches to close due to unsafe bacteria levels in the water, sometimes as a result of heavy rainfall causing polluted run-off. Suffolk County posts beach advisories and closures here. Nassau County advisories and closures are available through an up-to-date recording at 516-227-9700.
Heed the Warnings
You arrive, beach chair in hand, bag slung over arm, sunglasses on, only to find the sand lined with colored flags. What to do? Well, do you know what those flags mean? The United States Lifesaving Association and International Lifesaving Federation developed the flag warning system to notify beachgoers of water hazards. The flags come in green, yellow, red, blue and purple. Green means “calm waters.” Yellow means high surf but not life-threatening, swim with caution. Red means surf is high and or dangerous currents. Two red flags means the water is closed to swimming. Blue and purple flags warn of dangerous marine life, such as jellyfish and sharks.