RNLI lifeguards on the Causeway Coast were forced to red flag seven of their beaches for a short period yesterday afternoon during a rare summer thunder and lightning storm.
What started as a dry and sunny day amid humid conditions, turned nasty about 3.30pm. At Benone Strand which was the first beach the lifeguards deemed the water to be dangerous to bathe in, there was a strong southerly offshore wind blowing. However, it quickly changed to a westerly wind which blew a storm towards the Causeway Coast. Rain and hail accompanied by severe thunder and lighting, forced Senior Lifeguard Liam Mullan to make the decision to red flag the beach.
Lifeguards Clara Doran, Christopher Barnes and Alex McLaughlin worked rapidly together to clear the water where there were about 50 people enjoying themselves.
Liam meanwhile liaised with the other beaches on the Causeway Coast forewarning them of the storm conditions. As the storm took hold on the coast, beaches at Downhill, Castlerock, Portstewart Strand, Portrush West and East Strand and Whiterocks were all red flagged.
Portstewart Strand was the busiest beach at the time with approximately 500 people on the beach and 40 people in the water.
Speaking following the storm, Senior Lifeguard Liam Mullan said: ‘It is not often we see a thunder and lightning storm during the lifeguarded summer season and certainly not one to the extent of this. Conditions deteriorated quite rapidly yesterday and our lifeguards had to work quickly together to alert people to get out of the water and ensure their safety. Such was the extent of the lightning, as well as clearing the water, we also used our lifeguard truck to lift walkers up and bring them back to their vehicles.
‘While we don’t see these storms often, it is reassuring that the RNLI has trained us as lifeguards how to handle a situation like this when it unfolds. We were able to clear the water, be proactive and communicate to the public why we were red flagging the beaches. We also knew not to let anyone back into the water until 30 minutes after the last roll of thunder.’
Image Credit: RNLI/Christopher Barnes