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Beach Hazards

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As residents and visitors head to the 110 miles of shoreline along Dare County’s Outer Banks, Emergency Management officials urge beachgoers to beware of potential hazards and safety concerns they may encounter as they take to the shores. 

Monitor the Weather

Weather forecasts can change rapidly. Check the forecast before you head to the beach. If thunder roars, head indoors. Lightning often strikes more than three miles from the center of the thunderstorm, far outside the rain or thunderstorm cloud. “Bolts from the blue” can strike 10-15 miles from the thunderstorm.

Swim Near a Lifeguard

Never swim alone. Lifeguards and information located on lifeguard stands provide beach goers with valuable information about current beach conditions. 

Nags Head

10 a.m. - 6 p.m. Memorial Day through Labor Day with a roving patrol through October 15 - Abalone Street, Bonnett Street, Enterprise Street, Epstein Street Bathhouse, Gulfstream Street, Hargrove Street, Indigo Street, Juncos Street

Kill Devil Hills

10 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. Memorial Day through Labor Day with a roving patrol through October 15 - Helga Street, Hayman Street, Eden Street, Avalon Drive, 5th Street, 3rd Street, 2nd Street, 1st Street, Coral Drive, Asheville Drive, Woodmere Avenue, Carlow Avenue, Ocean Bay Boulevard, Oregon Avenue, Baum Street, Clark Street, Martin Street, Atlantic Street, Ocean Acres Beach Access (Neptune Drive), Lake Drive, Eighth Street

Kitty Hawk 

10 a.m. - 6 p.m. Memorial Day through Labor Day with a roving patrol - Byrd Street, Eckner Street, Lillian Street, Kitty Hawk Bath House

10 a.m. - 6 p.m. Memorial Day through Labor Day - Hillcrest Drive & Chicahauk Trail

From Mid-June through Mid-August - E. Dogwood Trail & 142 Ocean Boulevard

Handicapped Beach Accesses - Oceanview Loop & Hillcrest Drive


10 a.m. - 6 p.m. May 24 through September 9 - Caffey’s Inlet, Sprigtail Drive, Barrier Island Station, Schooner Ridge Drive, Christopher Drive, Four Seasons

June 13 through August 10 - Ocean Pines, Widgeon Drive, Snow Geese, Dune Road, Scarborough Lane, Plover Drive

Cape Hatteras National Seashore

9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Memorial Day through Labor Day - Coquina Beach (across from the Bodie Island Lighthouse site), Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Beach (adjacent to the Old Cape Hatteras Lighthouse site), Frisco Beach (located just south of Frisco Village), Ocracoke Beach (1 1/2-miles south of the NPS campground OR 1/2-mile north of Ocracoke Village)

Please note, should conditions on the beach change, stand locations may be shifted. Please heed words of caution, advisories, and/or the flying of red (no swimming) flags. They are issued for your safety.

Stay Alert

Rip currents, encounters with marine life, submerged objects, sand bar drop-offs, and jellyfish are just a few of the hazards found in near shore waters. Stay alert to your surroundings and keep an eye on family and friends. Don’t let alcohol impair your common sense. When visiting the beach with children, adults should take turns as the designated “water watcher” and keep an eye on children in the water at all times, avoiding all distractions including smartphones.


The force of shorebreak waves can catch unsuspecting swimmers off guard driving them into the sand, causing neck and back injuries, and in some cases, even drowning.

Marine Life Encounters

Ocean and sound waters are the home to a wide variety of marine life including predators like sharks. Beachgoers need to be aware of their surroundings before they make the personal decision to enter the water. Some tips to reduce your risks include: avoid swimming in areas where people are fishing and near fishing piers, avoid areas where schools of fish are active, don’t wear or take jewelry and shiny objects into the water as reflective light resembles fish scales, stay out of the water if you are bleeding or have open sores.

Shark Sense by N.C. Sea Grant

Sand Safety

Ocean rescue personnel and lifeguards must be able to drive on the sand day and night to quickly provide emergency services to those in need. Large holes in the sand can be difficult to see and are dangerous obstacles. Sand collapses can occur in holes just a few feet deep. Children and adults should not dig holes deeper than their knees when standing in them. If you do dig, fill it in.

Know Your Location

In an emergency, every second counts. The Dare County Sheriff’s 911 Communications staff may not be able to immediately identify your location from a cell phone. Pay attention to what street you access the beach or sound from and what milepost you are located near. If you are unable to provide an address or location of the emergency, response times can be hindered in life or death situations.


Why Are Red Flags Flying? 

If red flags are flying, swimming is prohibited. For your safety and the safety of ocean rescue staff. Although flags may be posted on sunny warm days with blue skies, it means the water conditions are not safe to swim in. 

Red No Swimming Flag