Crowds pack into Volusia County beaches, many hitting capacity on Memorial Day

It’s the first official weekend Volusia Sheriff’s Office is taking over the law enforcement role

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – It’s always one of the biggest beach days of the year and Volusia’s beaches were packed in early Monday morning.

The rip currents making it a bit dangerous to head into the water, though, meaning lifeguards were busy. People still found ways to enjoy the beach, many driving in from around Central Florida.

According to Beach Safety officials, 237 people were rescued on Monday, bringing the total for the holiday weekend to 299.

“It’s really great just to come out here and just enjoy the weather,” said Danielle Harris from Orlando.

Cars were parked along the beach as far as the eye can see and parents were on their toes keeping a look out for little ones with the traffic.

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“The best thing is you can see miles up and down the beach. so you kind of know when people are coming through,” said Kit Creager from Ormond Beach.

Local beachgoers also noticed a big uptick in law enforcement on the beach compared to years prior.

“I think before this we maybe saw a lifeguard for the weeks leading up to this and then hardly ever law enforcement, but they’re out a lot today,” Creager said.

It’s the first official weekend Volusia Sheriff’s Office is taking over the law enforcement role on the beach under a new state law that just went into effect. Now, deputies are handling the patrols and the Beach Safety team of lifeguards are keeping their eyes glued to the water.

“We can focus on the important things, safety. Making sure people in the water are being watched. We’re not looking west for the alcohol, we’re looking east for the family about to go into a rip current,” said Deputy Chief Aaron Jenkins.

Jenkins said despite a national lifeguard shortage that is also hitting Volusia, they were able to fully staff up for the weekend.

“Today for instance we’ve got about 105 total staff out there working. Those are full time, those are part time. We’ve got about 61 red lifeguard towers out,” Jenkins said.

With rip currents pulling dozens in over the weekend, Jenkins said the guards are staying busy making rescues and warning others before they get sucked in too.

“It only takes a step and you’re overhead. So you want to stay where you can firmly touch the sea floor because the currents are so strong,” he said.

Jenkins said the severe erosion on the beaches from last year’s hurricanes has created other challenges because it changed the shape of the coast in many areas. He said that’s caused issues with opening beaches for driving with the tides and they predict the strong rip currents they saw this weekend to stick around for quite a while.

“Because those things are not normal and everything is rebuilding and kind of funky and different, it’s creating a lot of holes in the sandbar you get rip currents, so I think this is going to be a trend for at least the next summer or two,” he said.

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Molly joined News 6 at the start of 2021, returning home to Central Florida.