The storms marched across the Chesapeake Bay Monday evening in waves. The first one silently, just a dark cloud spattering drops until it didn’t; pouring rain like the hose was turned on full blast and pointed straight down. That lasted about 15 minutes when the sun peeked out again. Then, the next wave of thunderstorms came rolling in. This time it was not going to be a simple, quick summer downpour. The two waves of storms were sandwiching serious winds.
At Sandy Beach State Park just outside Annapolis, Maryland, lifeguards were hanging out in the guard shack with some park rangers. Their day was over. The beaches were cleared in plenty of time. A boy burst in at about 6:30pm, pointing toward the water and saying that a man was yelling for help.
The fast-moving storms had capsized jet skis and dumped five people into the angry-looking water just off Sandy Point.
The lifeguards, Nathan Cmiel and Isela Hernandez, ran with Ranger Maria Reusing down East Beach to the shore. Ranger Alison Woodfield alerted NRP Sgt. James Johnson, who jumped on a patrol boat and called for backup.
With the skies darkening and the wind churning up whitecaps, Cmiel swam toward jet-skier Oscar Alas, closely followed by lifeguard Hernandez. Reusing went in behind the two to relay information to shore.
“They didn’t hesitate,” said Woodfield of the lifeguards’ actions. “There wasn’t a bit of fear in their eyes.”
Alas told rescuers that there were four others ─ two of them children ─ in the water beyond the swimming area.
While lifeguards brought Alas to shore, Johnson went to the nearly submerged jet skis and found four bobbing heads barely peeking above the waterline. All five jet skiers were wearing life jackets.
The Alas parents and youngest son were taken to Anne Arundel Medical Center for treatment of hypothermia.
Meanwhile, Johnson and Mackall were towing the disabled jet skis to shore when they saw a distress flare about 300 yards from shore. The signal of a disabled boat.
They turned their patrol boat and raced ahead of the storm to tow the drifting 21-foot powerboat with four aboard, including a baby.
“The storm was coming in so fast that you could barely see their blue lights,” said Woodfield, who lifted the baby from the boat when it docked and raced for cover as the storm struck.
The family, from Severn, did not require medical attention.
Despite being in the water for more than an hour, Carlos Alas and Mirian Alas, their 8-year-old son and an 18-year-old family friend, all of Lanham, escaped with minor injuries. Their 17-year-old son, Oscar Alas, declined treatment.
“The state park lifeguards and rangers along with NRP officers truly made a difference in the lives of these five people,” said DNR Secretary Mark Belton. “They train long and hard just to be ready for an emergency. All that hard work paid dividends last night on the Chesapeake Bay.”