South Walton Fire District is having a hard time keeping swimmers out of the water even though the storm has passed. They had to pull at least two people out of the Gulf on Wednesday.
Even though the weather is clearing, it doesn’t mean the water is safe.
After a storm when the weather begins to clear, that’s usually when the Gulf can be the roughest with strong rip currents , high tides and rough surf.
“It’s as soon as that first ray of sunlight hits the sand, we call it kicking the ant hill. It’s like people rush out and think because the storm is passed, that it’s a free for all,” shared David Vaughan, South Walton Fire District, Beach Safety Director.
Lifeguards say, the dangers lie underneath the water.
“We’ve talked to over 60,000 people in the last four days. We’ve done about 12,000 preventive actions, where we actively keep people out of the water. We’ve had about 30,000 on our guarded beaches,” said Vaughan.
Even when the surf calms down, the energy that has been pushing in for days, breaks up the sandbars and causes rip currents.
“So, what goes in, must go out,” explained Vaughan. “And, those rip currents are pulling very, very hard.”
The main area of concern is on the west side of South Walton, near the Miramar Beach area. For years, that spot has been known for deadly rip currents, which is why double red flags were flying for the holiday weekend.
“After looking at those rips, I’ve just determined, they are “people eaters.” They are the kind that we have had issues with in the past where we have had people getting into the massive water rescue situations,” shared Vaughan.
When going to the beach, Beach officials recommend swimming near a lifeguard, check beach safety flags and swim with a buddy.
As of 4:00 P.M. on Tuesday, March 20, South Walton beach safety flags have been changed to single red. Although that does mean the water is now open, the surf remain dangerous and potentially life threatening.