Flag Policy Inconsistencies

Although double red flags mean that swimmers shouldn't be in the water across the board, the consequences for not complying vary from place to place.

In Walton County, violators face a $100 fine, in unincorporated Bay County a violator could end up in jail, while in Panama City Beach, there's no policy that is followed at all.

"We don't have an ordinance where we can put someone in jail or issue a citation to them," said Chief Drew Whitman of the Panama City Beach Police Department. "We try to educate them, say 'Hey, it's dangerous for you and your family to be in the water.' ... They usually get out of the water, they usually don't have any attitudes. But we drive down the beach to warn the next group of people, we turn around and they're back in the water."

The policy for unincorporated Bay County came to play after 10 drownings in 2008.

"In 2008 the county commission passed an ordinance," said Major Tommy Ford of the Bay County Sheriff's Office, "that made it a misdemeanor violation to remain in the water during double red flags after a warning has been given."


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