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Date of Issue: April 08, 2009

Rip tide reminder for Easter weekend

Spring's sprung
Beachgoers in Bradenton Beach have fun and the shade on April 4. With many Florida schools on break this week, Anna Maria Island's beaches are expected to be crowded. Islander Photos: Lisa Neff

Manatee County marine rescue director Jay Moyles is ready for the biggest weekend of the year at Coquina Beach.

Easter is April 12 and Moyles has plans for the expected 100,000-plus people who will be at Coquina Beach and on the Island during the three-day holiday weekend.

“This is definitely a weekend for all hands to be on deck. We’ll have a full complement of lifeguards, probably 12. We’ll be tooled up.”

Moyles said the holiday weekend on the Island is for families to enjoy, but beachgoers should take some precautions when entering the water.

Many bathers are unaware of the rip tides that can occur at Coquina Beach and elsewhere on the Gulf side of Anna Maria Island, he said.

“A rip tide, or rip current, is when wind and waves push water up to the shore,” Moyles said. “The water rushes back to sea in a narrow current that moves away from shore. It’s strong enough to pull a swimmer out to sea.”

The best tip for swimmers caught in a rip tide is to “relax,” said Moyles. “Don’t try to swim against it. If you can, swim parallel to shore until you’re out of it. It’s not going to drag you under the water.”

At the same time the swimmer is moving parallel to shore, Moyles said he or she should call for assistance.

On Anna Maria Island, the rip tides are seldom wider than 50 feet. On Florida’s east coast, however, a rip tide can reach up to 50 yards across. A Coquina Beach rip tide is usually narrow, but they occur with regularity, he indicated.

“I would say 80 percent of our water rescues are due to swimmers caught in a rip current,” Moyles said.

“Remember to just relax if you're caught in a rip current,” he concluded.

“And have a safe and happy Easter.”


Island law enforcement advises Easter patience

Island law enforcement officials and departments are ready for this weekend.

Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale has been preparing for months for Easter.

He’s worked with the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office to organize law enforcement staffing levels and other procedures for the weekend, and plans are well in hand.

“Hopefully, everyone will have a nice, safe weekend. If something happens, we’ll be ready,” Speciale said.

The chief advised motorists to be aware that a lot of pedestrians are expected along Gulf Drive, as well as a high volume of vehicles.

“Just be patient,” he asked motorists.

Speciale also suggested people park the family car at a safe location and use the free Island trolley to travel up and down the Island.

Sgt. John Kenney, the MCSO deputy in charge of the Anna Maria substation, said the office is fully staffed for the weekend and patrols will be out on Anna Maria beaches.

“We are well prepared,” Kenney said.

The law enforcement departments of all three Island cities will be working together this weekend, he said, and in regular contact with each other.

Echoing the sentiments of Speciale, Kenney said everyone on the Island this weekend should “relax and have patience” when driving.

Kenney also reminded beachgoers that alcohol is not permitted on the beach.

Holmes Beach Police Chief Jay Romine has said previously that Easter is the busiest weekend for the department and a full complement of officers will be on duty.

While efforts to reach Manatee County Area Transit director Ralf Hesseler were unsuccessful, MCAT traditionally boosts its Island trolley service Easter weekend.