Double red flags not stopping swimmers in Bay County, lifeguards keeping busy

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PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB)–While double red flags have been flying on Bay County beaches, that isn’t stopping beachgoers from entering the water. Panama City Beach lifeguards and first responders have rolled out to dozens of water calls each day this week.

“Stay out of the Gulf. Swim in the pool, build a sandcastle. You know, have fun at the beach but don’t enter the Gulf,” said Wil Spivey, the Beach Safety Director.

Tropical Storm Cristobal left behind rough waves and rip currents as well as a lot of work for those patrolling the beaches.

“We have a lot of trained firefighters that are helping us out. We have extra units out. Our goal is just to saturate the beach with education and prevention,” said Spivey.

“It’s honestly been a great experience and they’ve been very helpful in making sure everyone’s staying safe and still having fun,” said Faron Duncan, a tourist.

Spivey says they’ve responded to dozens of calls each day. While those entering the water are subject to citations, he says that’s not their first step. Their main goal is education.

“We just want to get the word out so people know what they’re signing up for and how to avoid getting in trouble. We want everyone to enjoy their vacation or time at the beach and leave safely,” said Spivey.

The Sheriff’s Office is also patrolling and making sure beachgoers follow the flag system.

“We closed the beaches during the postings of double reds by county ordinance which means people that violate that are subject to arrest,” said Ruth Corley, the Public Information Officer for the Bay County Sheriff’s Office.

Locals are encouraging visitors to stay on the sand, they say it could save a life.

“Follow to your flags, listen to your lifeguards, because if you’re not from here, you won’t know what to do and next thing you know you’ll be out to sea,” said Robert Hildebrand, a resident.

Spivey says some rescued swimmers are taken to local hospitals to be treated for their injuries, and some do end up being fatal. They cannot speak as to how many fatalities they’ve had this week as that is determined by the medical examiner.

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