SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) — A high surf advisory is in effect through Thursday as Hurricane Franklin churns off the coast of Rhode Island.
But at some beaches across the state, there are no lifeguards to keep people from going into the water.
At the town beach in South Kingstown, lifeguards have been off duty since Aug. 18, when most of them went back to school.
“The statewide lifeguard shortage did cause the South Kingstown Recreation Department to notify the public that there would be no guards on duty at the Town Beach through Labor Day, and parking fees were suspended,” said South Kingstown Leisure Services Director Theresa Murphy.
There are multiple signs posted at the beach warning people there are no lifeguards and to swim at their own risk.
“As with any weather event that causes dangerous surf and/or rip currents, visitors to the shoreline, whether guarded or not, should always proceed with extreme caution, and avoid going into the water at all,” Murphy said.
Despite the warnings, a handful of people were swimming at the town beach Wednesday.
“When you’re watching the waves crash, it’s almost like an avalanche, and it sounds like one,” said Laurie Canterbury, who was at the town beach to watch the waves. “To take that chance of going in the water with no lifeguard when it’s like this, you’ve got to be a little crazy.”
Miles Bailey and Sam Ingalls, who described themselves as strong swimmers, took that risk. They admitted the ocean was turbulent, and said they spotted rip currents at times.
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“There are some kids who don’t know how to swim very well,” Bailey said. “You can pretty easily get hurt if you don’t know what you’re doing.”
At state-run beaches, R.I. Department of Environmental Management spokesperson Mike Healey said about half of their lifeguard staff has gone back to school as well.
“I’d say we’ll be at 50-60% strength at the major surf beaches,” Healey told 12 News. “East Beach in Charlestown and the Charlestown Breachway may be unprotected depending on the day.”
“If we don’t have guards, we post signs saying no lifeguards are on duty and that beachgoers swim at their own risk,” he continued.