The South Walton Fire District urges residents, visitors, and in particular Memorial Day Weekend beach goers to use caution
From Thursday through Sunday, winds of 20 to 30 mph will be common across the northern Gulf of Mexico, including the adjacent coastal areas of the Florida Panhandle as a result of Tropical Disturbance 1. Heavy rainfall will occur over the Florida Peninsula through at least Sunday. Strong winds will present an increased risk for the formation of powerful rip currents along Florida’s Panhandle beaches for this holiday weekend. In addition to the rip current risk, rough surf and higher waves could result in minor beach erosion during high tide. By heeding the advice of local lifeguards and officials, residents and visitors to the Beaches of South Walton can reduce their chances of injury or loss of life.
“We’re urging all beachgoers to follow the advice and direction of SWFD lifeguards and beach safety warning flags”, said Gary Wise, SWFD Beach Safety Director. “We want everyone to enjoy our beaches this holiday weekend and return home safely.”
SWFD officials and lifeguards want all residents and visitors to understand their swimming ability, be aware of rip currents, and learn how to get out of them safely and understand and adhere to the beach warning flags. A rip current is a channel of water that rapidly flows away from the shoreline.
Some important safety tips to keep in mind, if you witness a person stranded in the water:
• Get help from a lifeguard.
• If a lifeguard is not available, have someone call 9-1-1.
• Throw the rip current victim something that floats.
• Yell instructions on how to escape. The best method is to swim out of the current in a direction following the shoreline. When out of the current, swim at an angle–away from the current–towards shore.
• Remember, many would be rescuers drown while trying to save someone else from a rip current.
For more information, please contact Sean Hughes, Deputy Chief at 850-267-1298. To learn more about beach safety flags and the current surf conditions go to www.swfd.org.