PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) — A tropical low in the Gulf is expected to bring rough Gulf waters and already caused Panama City Beach officials to change their flags to double red.
Panama City Beach Fire Rescue Deputy Chief, Justin Busch, said Friday they’re cautioning people to stay out of the water even if it looks inviting.
“We’re looking at a 5 foot possible swell tonight and into tomorrow so to be proactive we went ahead and made the upgrade to double red to try to keep everyone safe. That’s our best effort is to be proactive with it,” Busch said.
One exception to the double red flag ordinance is for experienced surfers, the key word being experienced.
“They come out and get all that they can and the fact that they’re on a flotation device and they’re tethered they’re able to be in the water without any fine or penalty,” Busch said.
However, Busch said lifeguards are able to spot little nuances that determine whether or not someone is an experienced surfer. If they feel they’re not experienced, a lifeguard will make contact and ask them to leave the water.
“We definitely advocate for those only most experienced surfers to be out on the water during double red flags,” Busch said.
And it’s not just safety officials giving that warning, some surfers share the same sentiment.
“Anybody that doesn’t have a whole lot of experience in surfing, if it’s double red flags, don’t go out,” said experienced surfer, Winston Wakeford.
Wakeford said even though he loves to surf in these conditions, the water can still be intimidating to him at times.
“All that water being sucked out from under the pier is extremely intimidating but it scares me sometimes like I should maybe get out or just get away from the pier,” Wakeford said.
Busch said they will have more lifeguards patrolling the beaches during the storm. As a reminder, the waters are closed when double red flags are flying and it is a $500 fine for swimming in the Gulf when double reds are flying.