VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - You take gorgeous weather, plus the fact that we didn't get much of a celebration last year, and it's safe to say local beaches will be packed for Fourth of July 2021.
For lifeguards at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront, it's all hands on deck.
To get an idea of what Virginia Beach lifeguards expect this weekend, you'd have to look at July 4, 2019: Packed beaches, packed ocean, no pandemic in sight.
This year, we are still in a pandemic, but the chief of the city's lifesaving service says he's expecting pre-COVID-19 crowds through the weekend.
Potentially tens of thousands of people for lifeguards to keep an eye on.
“When you miss a rescue, that can be deadly,” Tom Gill, chief of the Virginia Beach Lifesaving Service, told News 3 reporter Anthony Sabella Friday.
Gill says his lifeguards train for this - and the stats show it works.
“[There’s a] 1 in 18 million chance of drowning on a lifeguarded beach, according to our USLA statistics,” he said.
But there are things we can all do to help keep ourselves from needing to be rescued. The number one concern: Rip currents pulling people out to sea.
“Don’t panic; float. If you can't float more than 30 seconds, don't get in the water – period,” Gill said. “If you're a very capable swimmer, you can start moving sideways laterally out of that current. If you're on a lifeguarded beach, the other option is to scream and yell for help."
That's the top concern, but in recent years a new issue has come up.
“Spinal cord injuries. We have seen a lot more of those in the past year or two, and we just want people to be safe. Run into that water, keep your feet under you, keep your head up and don't dive in because you never know where that next sandbar is going to be,” Gill said.
And if you have kids, Gill says it's important to keep an eye on them. Beach lifesaving service averages 1,000 lost kids each summer.
“The less time we spend looking for children, the more time we spend watching the water. The lifeguards are trained to do both, but again, the more we limit that, it really helps us out,” he explained.
Making for a stress-free Fourth of July for your family and the ones tasked with keeping us safe.