Surfers, visitors flock to Tybee Island as tide changes bring rough waters

Surfers, visitors flock to Tybee Island as tide changes bring rough waters

TYBEE ISLAND, Ga. (WTOC) -Tybee Island has seen some strong winds and rain at times throughout the afternoon, but many say it hasn’t been bad and they’ve gotten lucky.

Weather on the beach has been gloomy with steady wind throughout Monday. Waves are extremely choppy and coming in very fast crashing along the pier and onto the sand.

Interim Fire Chief Matt Harrell says no swimmers have been in the water because of the double red flag day. Surfers and kiteboarders are allowed in the water, but Harrell says the water conditions have even been too rough for them.

“It wasn’t supposed to be too high category, just a nice tropical storm, we wanted to go out there and ride some waves and just be on the beach during a storm; it was a lot of fun,” said surfer Ambria Derry.

There has been one water rescue for the day. Harrell says it was a kiteboarder who lost control. He also says he expects it to get rougher out here as the tides change this evening. Something to look out for over the next few days is beach erosion because this can cause additional rip currents.

“We don’t know what the erosion is going to do as far as causing other rips, so even tomorrow and the next few days if the water looks calm still stay close to the lifeguards because we don’t know what kind of rips will form because of the beach erosion,” said Harrell.

Harrell says the lifeguards will be checking beach conditions throughout the day. There have been plenty of people out here today walking along the beach, many saying they have come to watch the storm.

Many wanted to witness what it was like to be on the beach during a tropical storm and make it a memorable experience.

“We wanted to come down and see it and what it was like firsthand to be able to take pictures on the beach and be out there,” said Kevin Schmidt, visiting from Kentucky. “It’s just something else we can say we’ve done, we’ve been on the beach in a hurricane, in a tropical storm.”

Businesses say they still saw their normal crowds.

“We still had a decent number of people coming in and out, it’s about the same as our normal business so not too much has changed.”

People say they are happy conditions didn’t get too bad and are happy to still get some beach time in.

If you do plan on coming out to Tybee Island keep in mind that no swimming is allowed without a flotation device. Mayor Shirley Sessions confirms the pier is closed.

“People didn’t have to go to shelters or evacuate. We are really lucky compared to what’s going to happen in the Carolinas. We moved here four years ago. We were told we were in God’s pocket, in Savannah. Then we got hit with Matthew, then we got hit with Irma. There was no pocket. This time there is a pocket. So we feel for them and we are grateful for us,” said resident Mary Ellen Campbell.

The city has had their full staff on board Monday, including their water and sewer team and public works team. City Manager Shawn Gillen says Tuesday there may be some cleaning up to do and some significant beach erosion.

“Our public works crew is here. They’re here as normal, they’re working their normal day. They’re working tomorrow to clean up. We’ll probably see a lot of palm rinds around in the parks and things like that. There will be some clean up to do.”

Fire chief Matt Harrell says the lifeguards will also have some cleaning up to do.

“We were lucky today that we missed what could’ve been a potentially dangerous situation,” said Mayor Sessions.

Mayor Shirley Sessions says now the city will be dealing with how to plan for the rest of hurricane season during the coronavirus pandemic.

“There’s a lot different ways, different thought processes on how we’re going to help educate the public and ourselves as a city on having to refocus how we look at hurricane evacuation, hurricane planning and COVID at the same time.”

She says the tropical storm also gives them an idea on what went well and what can be improved.

Surfers, visitors flock to Tybee Island as tide changes bring rough waters

Beach Renourishment Project

Earlier this year, the city spent millions of dollars for their beach renourishment project. This included pumping tons of sand onto the beach, rebuilding the dunes and several of the crossovers.

Mayor Shirley Sessions says this was key to not only repair damage after Hurricanes Matthew and Irma, but to ensure that the beach would be better prepared for future hurricane seasons.

Mayor Sessions says she’s glad it’s done in time for this year’s season because storms like Isaias are exactly what it was done for.

“The whole purpose of renourishment is to renourish and to sustain and to protect not only, most importantly, lives but also structures and that’s what this renourishment has done so far,” said Mayor Sessions.

Sessions says so far, there haven’t been any power outages, downed trees or significant damage. As always the city reminds people to keep an eye on the storm to stay as safe as possible.

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