Volusia County beach patrol braces for busy holiday weekend

Volusia County Beach Patrol saw big crowds again on Saturday. The beaches have been at or close to capacity all this week. Rachel Nyblom, visiting from Gainesville, said the weather was too nice to stay away. "It's a fairly good beach day, considering the time of year."

Since Wednesday, Beach Patrol have rescued nearly 400 people. The biggest hazards have been life-threatening rip currents hidden in the water. Deborah Fincher said she was once caught in a rip current when her son was young. "Michael was probably around two, and he was on my hip, and it took us, and I looked - I was so greased-up - I lost him, and I reached out, and after we came out of it, and he said you almost lost me, mamma!"

That is why Beach Patrol Deputy Chief Tammy Malphurs said it was always critical to swim in front of a lifeguard. "I think that a lot of people that come from out of town, especially out of state, really underestimate the power of a rip current."

A rip current can appear anywhere along the beach. If you're caught in one, don't try to turn around and swim straight back to the beach. Instead, try and swim out to one side or the other. Fincher said she tries to get the word out about the danger. "Pay attention to what the lifeguard says. Plus, when you're a native, you know the ocean. We also try to tell other people."

Earlier this week, a 40-year-old man from West Virginia drowned. He was seen floating face down in an area that didn't have a lifeguard. Beach Patrol said the red flags would stay flying throughout the weekend, warning of hazardous conditions in the surf. 

"The best lifeguarding is, preventative actions," Malphurs said, "you hear those whistles blowing. We have lifeguards out there on rescue skis and our rescue vessel, for that very reason."