Snowbirds Flock to Panama City Beach

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PANAMA CITY BEACH - The local economy could see a bump in business with the majority of the snowbirds arriving in Panama City Beach.

Many are arriving this week and experts are projecting a strong snowbird season.

People all the way from Canada are trading in the white snow flurries for some sunshine.

"It was minus 14, now that's Celsius. Fahrenheit I can't convert it, but that's bloody cold," said Hartley Deighton, a tourist from Ontario, Canada.

It's snowbird season in Florida and the Panhandle is getting its share of the visitors. Like Deighton, many of the winter residents have traveled from Ontario, Canada to spend the next few months in Panama City Beach.

They're heading to activity centers like Noah's Ark to learn some new skill sets.

"I'm working on a solid bowl. That's a solid chunk and you end up with a bowl and i'm actually just learning that so it's kind of a new territory for me," said Deighton.

Others are ditching their winter jackets for the Panama City Beach Senior Center.

"Well there's no ice. There's no snow and there's a lot of fun people here. Nice people that enjoy having a good time and socializing," said Christine Jarski, a tourist from Michigan.

Those snowbirds are also energizing the local economy during what would typically be the off-season.

"This time of year, I think helps the businesses maintain so that they can get ready to build up for that busy time of year so it's got to be beneficial in that way and then it keeps us from being holy seasonable," said Lance Allison, President and CEO of the Panama City Beach Chamber of Commerce.

Bay County Tourist Development Council numbers show the average snowbird stays in the area for about two months, and they typically spend around $2,000 a person.

The snowbirds help carry local businesses through the slow season. About the time they start heading North, spring breakers will be arriving.

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