How does late summer hit so quickly each year? Suddenly, we have heat, calm water and the ever-present hurricane threat.
With the later part of summer comes a specific set of things to be aware of. A lot of marine life doesn’t like the turbulence of the surf zone, but calm conditions mean they are comfortable closer to the shoreline.
The cow-nose stingray is a good example. These little guys are very shy and under normal circumstances don’t hit people often. They don’t sit on the bottom like normal rays, instead swimming in schools and avoiding people when possible. However, in late summer they come in close to feast on those little bivalves that you probably, as a kid, dug up along the shoreline and watched burrow back into the sand when the next wave came.
If you’re not careful, when the cow-nose rays are close to shore, you could step on one and be greeted with the little barb on the tail. It’s an easy fate to avoid, though, as all you have to do is shuffle your feet when walking in the shallows. The resulting vibrations let them and other marine life know you’re in the area and give them time to get out of your way.
If you do get hit, you’ll typically see a puncture wound with a tender, inflamed area around it and feel more pain than you’d expect from a small wound. The pain goes away almost instantly when heat is applied. Hot water is best. Once the pain is gone, you need medical attention to see if a piece of the barb is in there and to deal with the inevitable infection.
Another late summer danger is the Texas coastal heat. As you well know, this is a special type of heat that few people outside of the area understand. I once lived in a desert that regularly got up to 115 degrees or higher. It was nothing compared to a day in G-Town with no breeze, water temperature of 92, air temperature of 95, and humidity at the typical 150 percent!
Even if you’re fit and used to being outside, it’s important to stay hydrated, seek shade periodically, and take precautions from the sun. And contrary to traditional Texas philosophy, beer doesn’t count as “hydrating.” Alcohol and caffeine are diuretics, which cause you to lose fluid as fast as you take it in.
All that said, the late summer and early fall are great times to be on the beach. Even the crowded conditions we’ve seen all spring and summer are slacking off a bit, so you can find your own space. Water conditions are generally safer to swim in and we get more days of that green water we wait for all summer. Getting out early or making time later in the day is definitely worth the effort. For me, probably the best thing is that this is the time of year you see the most bottle-nosed dolphins.
Peter Davis is chief of the Galveston Island Beach Patrol. The views in this column are Davis’ and do not necessarily represent those of the Beach Patrol, Galveston Park Board of Trustees or any other entity. Information on the Beach Patrol is at galvestonbeachpatrol.com.