What those beach warning flags mean along Galveston, Texas coast

Red beach flags are flown when conditions are out of the ordinary, such as strong wind, strong current or large surf. Adult swimmers should stay in water no more than waist deep and non-swimmers and children should be kept along the surf line. (HHakim, Hazlan Abdul Hakim)

GALVESTON – Galveston’s Flag Warning System gives you a fast, visual way to know how safe the water is for swimming or what might be lurking in the waves that could hurt or sting you.

In May, two people drowned at Galveston beaches, including a Houston woman, 19, who died after body surfing with her brother. After she started to struggle in the water, her brother and a bystander got her to shore, but attempts to save her failed. 26-year-old Joshua Acevedo drowned after getting caught in a rip current.

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Galveston’s Beach Patrol uses five color-coded flags to give you a visual heads-up on conditions.

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Contributed to DocumentCloud by Click Houston (KPRC) • View document or read text

Today, for instance, a yellow flag day in Galveston, according to KPRC 2′s Corley Peel, who captured this video to show you what that looks like.

RELATED: HOW TO spot a rip current from the shore in Galveston

Here’s another breakdown of what each flag means, with some more details:

GREEN: Conditions are calm, and you can swim with care.

YELLOW: Use caution when you get into the water. This flag is flown for normal conditions to remind swimmers to stay alert.

RED: Flown when conditions are out of the ordinary. This could mean strong wind, strong current or large surf. Adult swimmers should stay in water no deeper than their waists. If you don’t swim, stay out of the water. Children should be kept along the water’s edge or the surf line.

PURPLE: This means there’s a potential danger with marine life in the water, such as jellyfish, Portuguese man-o-war, stingrays or other marine life that could be a hazard for swimmers. Purple flags are also used in combination with other flags.

ORANGE: This is an environmental warning for air quality and/or water quality. Ask the lifeguard for more details. Orange flags are also used in combination with other flags.

On Galveston Island, signs and warning flags get posted every day along Seawall Boulevard at 5 different locations:

  • Seawall & 61st Street
  • Seawall and 53rd Street
  • Seawall and 37th Street
  • Seawall and 29th Street
  • Seawall and 10th Street

During summer months, you’ll also see the flags posted at each guarded lifeguard tower.

Parks, such as East Beach, Stewart Beach and the West End Pocket Parks, also put up the warning flags when the parks are open.

Before heading to the beach, check the current flag warning status with the Galveston Beach Patrol to ensure your safety. Visit their flag warning system for real-time updates on beach conditions and potential hazards.

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Houston bred and super excited to be back home! I grew up in The Heights with my 8 brothers and sisters and moved back in 2024. My career as a journalist spans a lot of years -- I like to say there's a lot of tread on these tires! I'm passionate about helping people. I also really love sharing success stories and stories of redemption. Email me!

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