Dont drink and drown. Scott McCartney, Northern NSW Life Guard Co-ordinator, pictured at Main Beach, Byron Bay in the lead-up to schoolies week. Photo Patrick Gorbunovs/ The Northern Star
Dont drink and drown. Scott McCartney, Northern NSW Life Guard Co-ordinator, pictured at Main Beach, Byron Bay in the lead-up to schoolies week. Photo Patrick Gorbunovs/ The Northern Star Patrick Gorbunovs

Guards on alert as perfect storm brews over beaches

LIFESAVERS fear a perfect storm is set to smash the Tweed over the New Year period, with sizeable swells predicted to coincide with extreme temperatures and ballooning holiday crowds.

Rescues have increased across the North Coast in the past year, according to Northern NSW Life Guard Coordinator Scott McCartney, and he said while patrols had so far prevented drownings from spiking in local waters this summer there had been an increase state-wide.

"It's been extremely busy for the Tweed,” he said. "Each year it gets busier and lifeguards definitely have their hands full.

"From Ballina to the Tweed we've had rescues but not major ones.”

Earlier this week police appealed for help to identify a man who died on Wednesday afternoon after swimming off Belongil Beach, Byron Bay.

It followed recent similar incidents further south and prompted Mr McCartney to describe conditions this weekend as a "perfect storm”, saying swells were small enough to encourage swimmers in but rough enough to produce rips, attract board riders and make life difficult for patrol teams.

Most rescues at this time of year happen after 3pm when people are affected by drugs or alcohol, and Mr McCartney said this should serve as a reminder for swimmers to stay out of the water if they were affected by either.

Cudgen Headland Director of Surf Life Saving Michael Crawley said crews from Kingscliff's two flagged zones had been kept busy already but had so far been needed mostly to assist swimmers caught in rips.

He said there was a sweeping current moving along much of the length of the beach and swimmers needed to remember to swim between the red and yellow flags for their own safety.

News of extreme conditions, mainly in the north of NSW, has prompted police to this week activate the state's Heatwave Action Plan.

The Bureau of Meteorology advised temperatures were expected to exceed 35° in many parts of the north, with overnight temperatures above 20° expected all weekend before a southerly change on Monday. (Water temperature is reported at 24° on Coastalwatch.com.)

NSW Health advised people should stay hydrated, avoid alcohol and hot or sugary drinks, limit activity, and try to avoid sun in the hottest part of the day.



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