DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Before you hit the beach in Volusia County this weekend, make sure you have a plan for off-beach parking if you don’t have a four-wheel drive car.
Beach safety officials said they are running into major problems with cars getting stuck with the sand being even softer than usual this time of year.
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The soft sand becomes a problem for drivers here every summer around this time, but Volusia Beach Patrol Deputy Chief Tammy Malphurs said because of the lack of storms this year, the problem started much earlier than usual and is only going to get worse.
“Pretty much half of our driving beach is four-wheel drive only now,” she said.
It’s a headache for beach patrol and drivers who get stuck.
“We have that red coquina sand drifting down from the north, so you’ll see that at the extreme north and south ends of the beach usually. But right now you’re seeing it everywhere,” Malphus said.
Many of those getting caught in the sand are the ones taking a chance and ignoring the “four-wheel drive only” signs.
“When one person gets stuck, it causes a chain reaction of stuck vehicles,” Malphurs said.
The beach patrol typically does what it can to tow the cars out, but this year, its become such a problem that the county’s concessions contracted with John Gardella.
“Most of the people I pull out are the ones who want to try it themselves. It doesn’t usually work out very well that way,” he said.
Gardella owns Sand Tow. He gets called directly from beach toll workers or customers and digs them out of the sand before towing them to a flat surface. He said he got these skills from his time as a Marine working in the desert.
“On a weekend, we could do 10, 15, even up to 20 (car rescues),” he said.
He said since June, he’s pulled out about 200 cars.
Malphurs said with Gardella now on the beach, it helps free up their officers to respond to emergencies.
The problem can easily be avoided by reading the signs and the sand.
“If you see the sand is very rough and rutted, it’s probably soft. The smoother the sand is, the better you are,” Gardella said.
Gardella said he costs much less than a typical tow truck but still charges anywhere from $40 to $100 per car.
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