GULF SHORES, Ala. – An Alabama city closed all of its beaches Monday after four men drowned in dangerous rip currents in the Gulf of Mexico in a two-day period.
Gulf Shores officials on Monday posted double red flags on all beaches in the city, meaning that extremely hazardous conditions are present and all waters are closed to the public.
Beaches in Gulf Shores were re-opened Tuesday under yellow-flag conditions, meaning that moderate surf and/or currents were present, and swimmers should use caution, according to a telephone hotline for information on beach conditions.
The men who drowned were from Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky and Louisiana.
Matthew Hattaway, 25, of Bossier, La., was pronounced dead about 3 p.m. Sunday. A relative spotted him floating in the surf, Baldwin County Coroner Stanley Vinson said.
John Hogue, 51, of Overland Park, Kan., died on the beach a few hours later, Vinson said. He had been swimming and was pulled from the surf unconscious.
Authorities said those people were swimming off Fort Morgan Peninsula near Gulf Shores when they got into trouble.
"The waves didn't appear all that large, but the rip currents were really bad," said Grant Brown, a spokesman for the city of Gulf Shores, near where the incidents occurred.
William H. Moore, of Jonesboro, Ark. died Monday when he tried swimming to a woman who was having trouble staying afloat near the Gulf State Pier. Vinson said another swimmer was able to pull the woman to shore and Moore's body was found floating in the water about an hour later by Alabama Marine Police.
On Monday night, Baldwin County sheriff's officials say they found 34-year-old Joshua Kimbrough of Bowling Green, Ky., on the Fort Morgan peninsula Monday night. His body was recovered more than 24 hours after he disappeared in the surf. Kimbrough was last seen swimming Sunday afternoon in the Gulf at the Beach Club and was found at the nearby Martinique subdivision.
Vacationers sometime fail to recognize the danger of rip currents, which can pull swimmers underwater and out to sea even when the water appears relatively calm on the surface, Vinson said.
"You don't see many locals out there swimming when it's like that," he said.