New Lightning Sensors Built On Beaches

Looking north on Brick Beach 3, you can see a wider beach than looking south. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

  BRICK – The days of making a mad dash from the beach when a thunderstorm suddenly appears will be a thing of the past since the township has purchased an automated, standalone lightning detector system.

  “We’re the first oceanfront beach in New Jersey to put this system in, which detects lightning at 20 miles away, and then the alarms sound at seven to five miles away,” said the township’s director of Recreation Dan Santaniello.

  The system “feels” the lightning discharge using patented technology, he added. Once the system knows that there’s a flash 20 miles away, it follows the flash and when it gets within seven to five miles from the beach, a horn sounds and strobe lights go off for 30 seconds.

  “We’ve been using radar up until now, but you can be off some 20 or 30 miles on a storm, so this system takes the human error out,” Santaniello said.

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  “People take off a day of work to enjoy the beach, and lifeguards tell them they have to clear the beach, they look up and there’s sunny skies and they don’t believe us,” he said. “Now people will have an ample amount of time to take their belongings off since we have this system.”

  There will be one unit at Brick Beach 1, another at Brick Beach 3, and the horn can be heard for the entire 1.7 miles of beachfront, he added.

  Last year, miles away at White Sands Beach in South Seaside Park, a lifeguard was killed by a sudden lightning storm. Keith Pinto, 19, was a Toms River resident.

  The township beaches are in great shape, despite a storm that took place the week before Memorial Day, Santaniello said.

The detector is a small device that records lightning strikes up to 20 miles away. (screenshot by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

  “That storm did set us back,” he said. “It took a lot of sand away and moved it onto all the pathways we had just cleared out where we had laid all the mats out, so we had to go back with machines, clear out the mats again, dump that sand back onto the beach and then groom it all again,” he said.

  The shoreline south of Brick Beach 3 to 6th Avenue will need replenishment, which will be done by the Army Corps of Engineers, but probably not until after Labor Day, Santaniello said.

  “All 1.7 miles of Brick beachfront is usable,” he said. “The sandbars are out there just like every other year. They’ll eventually make their way back onto our beaches.”

  Finding lifeguards has been a challenge for many Jersey Shore oceanfront communities, Santaniello said, and raising the lifeguards hourly salary from $11 to $15 helped.

  “We’re right at the exact number of lifeguards we need, 58 total,” he said.

  Retired Brick schools physical education teacher Donovan Brown is once again the beach captain, aided by Brick school teachers Robbie Brown and John Prato, and Lakewood school teacher Angela Graham.

  Daily beach badges are $10 and season badges are $45. Season parking is $45, and daily parking is $10. The beach is free for senior citizens (over 65), and season parking for seniors is $15. Children under 12 are free. Veterans can also obtain a free daily wristband by showing a military ID.