BAY COUNTY Fla. (WMBB) — When double red flags are flying that means the Gulf waters are closed, and now, swimmers can be fined 500 dollars for breaking that rule on all Bay County beaches.
County Commissioner Philip “Griff” Griffitts said the Gulf of Mexico is powerful, and they raise double red flags intentionally.
“The folks that are visiting us just don’t understand the power of the Gulf of Mexico,” Griffitts said.
The Bay County Commission voted Wednesday to match their rules with Panama City Beach. This change in the ordinance is an effort to stop tragedies from happening.
“It’s a citation you can be arrested for the second or third offense but we are hopeful that we won’t reach those points,” Griffitts said.
They hope this change will make the rules more effective and easier for first responders to enforce. This eliminates the confusion of being within county or city limits.
Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford says he made this recommendation after the massive amount of water rescues in June.
“It’s simply not worth it to put yourself or your family at risk just to go in the water,” Ford said. “It’s a beautiful place with a lot of things to do on the sand without putting yourself or your family at risk.”
The only beaches within county limits with lifeguards on patrol are at the county pier and at Rick Seltzer Park. So it is important that you are being responsible for your own safety because there are way more of you than there are of them.
“That’s because of the dangers to that individual as well as the danger it puts our deputies and lifeguards into when they have to go in the water and rescue people,” Ford said.
He said there should be no excuse for not knowing what the flag system means.
“There are placks that are placed in all the beach hotels and condominiums, and all the beach accesses have signs,” Ford said.
Sheriff Ford said the county is in charge of around 15 miles of beaches and it is taxing for the lifeguards to rush up and down all day. The time they spend reprimanding swimmers also takes away from a time where they could be saving a life.