“Colors of the Wind” was more than a hit song that Vanessa Williams made famous from the mid-1990s Disney movie “Pocahontas.”
The ocean breeze has helped add some extra safety reminders this spring for visitors to Myrtle Beach and Huntington Beach state parks, through a series of flags, which by color, reflect the ocean conditions along the shore. They might even be considered an extension in the integral role that lifeguards play with their eyes across the sands and surf, as the flags catch the view of swimmers and sun lovers hitting the beach.
A windy day might be a “red flag day,” as Ann Malys Wilson, Myrtle Beach State Park’s senior interpretive ranger, would say.
The hues of the flags, with red denoting either of the two highest hazards, yellow as medium, green as low, and blue for dangerous marine life, such as jellyfish, are posted in multiple places beyond the admissions gate of each park as well.
With schools letting out for the summer, and the heavy tourism season ready to flow across the Grand Strand, the flags’ unfurling comes at an opportune time for increased visibility and awareness about safety and the nonstop reverence the ocean commands and warrants at any time of year. Park traffic increases mightily for summer, just like the slew of nature programs available at each place for vacationers and local residents alike (see the lists nearby).
Gerald Ives, a longtime state parks ranger and director of Myrtle Beach State Park – where projects to refurbish the pier store building and Cabin 1, a Civilian Conservation Corps cabin built in the 1930s, were completed earlier this year, and eight “Animal Action” game signs were posted across the park’s three playgrounds – said he appreciates parkgoers’ interest in, and attention to, the flag signals, all put into place as of May 1. He said they also follow suit with other safety flag systems in place across Horry County in beach patrol services.
The flags are very, very visible. That’s the great thing about the flag system; it’s the first thing people notice when they come to the parks. It just makes them better informed so when they go to the beach, they’re safer.