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State Parks add warning flags to help keep beachgoers safe

Photos by Charles Slate • The Sun News

Under prime conditions, at day at the beach can be one of the most attractive things to do in Myrtle Beach.

However, with ever-changing weather and other interference from Mother Nature coming into play, a trip to the beach can be quite unplesant or even dangerous at times throughout the tourist season.

That's why all four coastal S.C. state parks — including Myrtle Beach State Park and Huntington Beach State Park along the Grand Strand — have recently instituted a five-color flag system to alert park visitors to the ocean water conditions and other potential hazards.

With notice given at various park points, including the front gate, and on several beach accesses these flags are designed to help add some extra safety reminders this spring for Myrtle Beach visitors. 

For instance, a windy day might be a “red flag day,” says Ann Malys Wilson, Myrtle Beach State Park’s senior interpretive ranger.

Red flags denote the two highest hazards, with yellow as a medium hazard, green as low risk days, and blue to warn against dangerous marine life, such as jellyfish.

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.

Gerald Ives, a longtime state parks ranger and director of Myrtle Beach State Park 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.

To read a Q&A with Ives on the flag system and all the programs offered at the local state parks, click here.

What they mean

If you see a warning flag flying at the state park or around town while at the beach, please take note and use proper caution. Here's a look at what each flag means:

Double-deck Red (w/ No Swimming Logo): Water closed to public

Red: High hazard, with high surf, strong currents, or both

Yellow: Medium hazard, with moderate surf or currents, or both

Green: Low hazard, with calm conditions, but continued accent on caution encouraged

Blue: Beware of dangerous marine life, such as jellyfish on the beach