Orange Beach and Gulf Shores lifeguards patrolled from both the ground and air over the recent Memorial Day weekend, as helicopters from the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency hovered over crowded …
Orange Beach and Gulf Shores lifeguards patrolled from both the ground and air over the recent Memorial Day weekend, as helicopters from the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency hovered over crowded beaches.
The partnership began in May 2022 when the helicopters were loaned for a trial period to help lifeguards assist swimmers in need of rescue, which resulted in 38 people being rescued during that holiday weekend.
This year, the helicopters were observed in flight up and down the coast during the busy weekend, ready to spring into action and keep the beaches safe.
However, beach safety chief Joethan Phillips said recently that the helicopters did not make any major saves over the holiday weekend this year.
"There were no major rescues to report during the holiday weekend from the helicopter," Phillips said. "The helicopter did respond to a distressed swimmer call in the Fort Morgan area, and upon arrival a thorough search of the area was conducted and fortunately the crews were able to report no swimmers were in distress."
According to the official Orange Beach Surf Rescue Facebook page, the current posed a medium risk for most of the holiday weekend, with high hazard and strong current risks on Saturday, May 27.
At a Gulf Shores City Council work session held last summer, Fire Chief Mark Sealy said the use of helicopters makes it much easier for lifeguards to approach distressed swimmers in the surf.
"It allows our lifeguards to be deployed more quickly and without having to fight the surf on the way out to effect rescues," Sealy said.
"This time of year, one of the biggest concerns that we all face along the Gulf Coast is the safety of our citizens and visitors entering the water," said Mayor Robert Craft at last summer’s work session. "It is a dramatically dangerous place to go, particularly if you don't know what you're doing, and most of our visitors down here do not understand rip currents. I'm not sure how many of our residents truly understand rip currents. It's really important if you go in the water."
For the most updated information on beach safety, text ALBEACHES to 888-777 to receive daily beach conditions via text message.