Troubled waters

From an editorial Tuesday in the Greensboro News & Record:

Beaches were open and swimming was allowed at Oak Island on North Carolina’s coast Monday, despite two shark attacks there late Sunday afternoon.

A 12-year-old girl from Asheboro lost part of an arm and sustained a severe leg injury. A 16-year-old boy from Colorado lost an arm. Both had been in waist-deep water not far from shore.

Yet, town authorities didn’t order swimmers out of the water until after the second attack. While it’s difficult to get word all along the beach, once they knew a very dangerous shark was in the area, they might have tried.

North Carolina beaches, like the North Carolina mountains, are wonderful places to visit. Coastal economies depend on the tourist season, which has just begun with the end of the school year. It’s understandable that town officials want to give assurances that visitors can enjoy a safe, happy vacation.

But two serious attacks in one location, only three days after an attack nearby, remind us that the ocean is a hostile environment – and dangers lurk even in shallow water. A sizable shark, fast and powerful, can approach unseen in an instant.

This reality creates enough fear in some people to keep them out of the water. That’s not irrational – and Sunday’s events will convince more people of the sensibility of caution.