Wednesday, August 1, 2012

It’s Summer and Time to Hit the Beach – just watch which one you pick!

Warning signs on beach, Kauai, Hawaii (© Roger Fletcher/Alamy)

          Good Day Humboldt County!

It’s summer and people gravitate to beaches like lemmings. You should know that all beaches are not safe to go to. I’ve got a list of top offenders, and some may surprise you – like Acapulco.

I remember going to Kauai in 2008 with my wife and she got caught by the dangerous riptide at Hanakapiai Beach. Lucky for her there were some strong swimmers who helped her out as I was on the beach at the time. There’s still plenty of good beaches to go to, but sadly there are an increasing number of beaches succumbing to pollution and no longer safe to swim in.

                                                         Hanakapiai Beach, Kauai, Hawaii

Over the past 40 years, more than 300 people have drowned in the waters off Kauai, far more than on any of its sister isles. Why? Kauai is the westernmost island in the Hawaiian chain, set off from the rest and the one least protected by reefs. That means that although the ocean surrounding it often looks calm, it is beset by treacherous rip currents. This is particularly true of Hanakapiai Beach; its waters have claimed 80 lives over the years. Tip: If find yourself caught in a rip current, swim parallel to the beach rather than toward it; this may allow you to escape the tug of the water, because rip currents can be as little as 20 feet wide.  

High bacteria level warning sign, Little Florida Beach, Cameron Parish, La. (© David Wei/Alamy)

                        Cameron Parish Beaches, Louisiana

Sunburn? Yeah, that could be a problem here. But the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group, is much more worried that people who swim off these beaches will end up with a serious gastrointestinal illness. The NRDC called Louisiana’s beaches the most contaminated in the United States in 2012, after testing water from 3,000 locations for bacteria found in human and animal waste. The beaches in Cameron Parish were particularly badly polluted, the problems caused by storm-water runoff and sewage effluents. Yuck.

Federal policeman stands guard near beach, Acapulco, Mexico (© John Moore/Getty Images)

                 Acapulco, Mexico

Vendors on the beach? Not so dangerous — unless they’re peddling Acapulco Gold, this area’s superstrong strain of marijuana, rather than ice cream. That’s reportedly the case in this once-glamorous beach town, which has become a major battleground in Mexico’s drug war. The city once known as a stomping ground for such stars as Elizabeth Taylor and Rod Stewart now has a reputation for gangland kidnappings and decapitations. According to a Reuters article in November, the number of killings in Acapulco tripled to nearly 900 in 2011, making it one of the most violent cities in the world. (See More Dangerous Beaches here)

Time for me to walk on down the road…

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