Black Sunday Anniversary

By: Mike Tolbert
By: Mike Tolbert

One man believes rip currents have little to do with our dangerous waters. Of the many firefighters in South Walton, few will ever forget June 8, 2003.

South Walton Fire Chief Les Hallman says, "We're in the height of tourist season. People have been bottled up in their rooms because of the weather, suddenly the sun comes out and compounding the problem what was unusual was even though the surf was very high that day the water was unusually clear. It was beautiful."

Even with red flags flying rescuers pulled nearly 60 people from Walton County waters that day. Six of them died. Since then county officials have stepped up efforts to educate beachgoers on the dangers of rip currents, but one man disagrees with that approach.

Ocean Engineering consultant David McGehee says, I have been swimming and surfing in the Pensacola beach area probably 50 times a year for the past four or five years and I've yet to see a strong developed rip current. He proposes a hydro-dynamic study to find out why and where the danger lies in our waters.”

Whatever the reason, fire officials say the lessons learned from June 8 have helped. coming to our area now are more conscious of the fact that we have the flag system in place and they understand a little more clearly what those flags mean.

Rip currents or not, red flags still mean stay out of the water.


8195 Front Beach Road Panama City Beach, FL 32407 Station: 850-234-7777 News: 850-230-5221 Fax: 850-233-6647 FCC Form 398
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