Beach visitors: One warning sign not nearly enough

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - The waters off four beach locations in Harrison and Jackson counties have been closed by the state because of high bacteria levels in the water, levels that could be potentially harmful.  The warnings were issued on Friday and Saturday.

On Sunday along Front Beach in Ocean Springs, dozens of people were in the water anyway, not because they didn't care.  It was because they didn't know.

Kevin Edmonson, his wife and their two dogs enjoy an afternoon stroll along the beach, dipping their toes and paws into the water.

Much to his surprise, however; these waters are off limits.

"We were thinking of letting the dogs off and letting them run and that of course. But now that we know thanks to your information we don't want them to be anywhere close to the water. So I've asked my wife not to let the dogs get close to the water due to the harmful bacteria," Edmonson said.

That didn't stop some, though. Another family was about to take a dip, but changed their minds when they found out about the closure.  Jordan Bunch was one of these.

"We had no idea that it was even closed off. So it's very concerning," Bunch said.

Almost everyone WLOX spoke with along Front Beach was surprised that the waters were closed for swimming because of the high bacteria counts.

The reason so many were not informed of the closure is because on the entire half-mile stretch of beach, there's only one sign pointing out the potential danger. The news caught the MacDonald family off guard, as well.

"I was shocked. I was shocked that they wouldn't put up signs for everybody to know. I mean your kids can get sick out here," Justin MacDonald said.

The MacDonalds weren't the only ones to pack up and leave when they found out about the closures. The Diaz family left the beaches as well, but not before the youngest went swimming.

"We didn't know that it was going to be closed. We didn't know that the water had bacteria. We were here yesterday too, and you said the warning was issued yesterday," Yesenia Diaz asked.

Word of the closures put a damper on the day's fun, including Lisa McLoughlin and her young daughter.

"The weekend is the busiest time and this is her last day before kindergarten, and we wanted to come out to our beach and enjoy the waves. We're not now," said McLoughlin.

This news, as you can imagine, disappointed many.

The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), which monitors coastal waters, does issue warnings through local media, its website, Facebook, and Twitter pages.

As for the lack of warning signs being placed along the affected beaches, MDEQ officials said there should be three to four signs in each area. They weren't sure why there was only one sign along Front Beach. MDEQ officials promised to look into the situation.

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