Working in the weather: Chief Peter Davis, Galveston Beach Patrol

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HOUSTON (CW39) – When it comes to jobs that involve working the weather, and bearing the elements, nothing fits the bill quite like Galveston’s own, beach patrol and lifeguard staff. I headed out to the coast to spend the days with Chief Peter Davis, a seventh generation Galvestonian, head of Beach Patrol and the Park Board Police Department.  

While you are having fun out on the beach, remember, there are trained eyes and bodies around you, keeping you safe, and they are keeping the weather into account.  

“A lot of days with the strong wind close to shore here in Texas, the wind really generates at a lot of surf and a lot of lateral current which runs parallel to shore and what that does,  is create really strong rip currents next to any structure.”, states Davis.

These structures involve: 

-groins  

-jetties 

-piers 

And you should stay away from them out in the open waters.  

So, what is the meaning behind the flags?  

“Red means there is a really strong surf and we recommend adults who are really good swimmers don’t go above their waist. Children and non-swimmers; that’s the day to make sandcastles. Yellow means caution, and green doesn’t mean safe it means swim with care. You are still in the open waters so you have uneven bottoms, and there could be some slight rip currents near jetties. You still want to be careful even on green days when it looks really calm. In Galveston, we have these other things, and this is a nationally recommended color for marine life. That is usually for jellyfish, or occasionally there is a lot of sting rays. So, if you do see the purple you want to ask the lifeguard what it is or get it on our website, we will have some description about it. Here in Galveston, we also have this environmental warning system, which would be air or water quality. We partner with UTMB for air quality warnings, and with the Texas health district, Texas beach watch, to be a force multiplier for them to let the public know when we have high bacteria counts in the water”, says Davis.

80% of rescues in the surf environment happen because of rip currents. When forecasting for them you need to consider wind, tidal cycle, surf heights, and orientation of the land.  

Davis adds, “We want to remember that if you mess up on a forecast on a rainy day, it’s really not going to kill anybody, but if you think there are no rips out there and there are, it can be a bit of a different feel”.

Rescues involve lifeguards putting their own life at risk to save others. 

He mentions, “The same thing that kills people in rip currents is the same thing that makes it dangerous to make rescues. People panic, they choke on water, and when they are in that kind of state, they get strong and don’t think clearly. They may try to climb on top of you or something like that”.

“I am being careful, kind of staying away from you in case you grab me, but once you are calm, and compliant, then we’ll turn around and fasten it from the back, then we swim them to shore”, Davis says.

Lot’s of physical and mental training goes into being an effective lifeguard, especially along Galveston beach. So next time you are there, and see a guard on duty, say thanks.  

A look back through the years of Galveston Beach with Chief Peter Davis:

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