Panama City Beach addresses dangerous rip currents

High rip currents are possible in the Gulf this weekend. (WJHG/WECP).
High rip currents are possible in the Gulf this weekend. (WJHG/WECP).(WJHG)
Published: Aug. 17, 2019 at 8:56 PM CDT
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Single red flags are flying high on Panama City Beach Saturday.

Warning beach visitors: Knee-high is too high.

"Right now we have red flags flying, we may see double red flags," said Geoff McConnell, Panama City Beach Council member.

Panama City Beach officials say they averaged 70 service calls per day this summer.

"There was one weekend where I know Bay County had over a hundred, just in one weekend, it's been way too many, a lot," said Riley Thore, Panama City Beach lifeguard.

Some beach visitors say they would like to see more lifeguards.

"I know parents are out here with their kids, but we need somebody that's trained to protect them in the water," said Coreinel Williams, visiting from New Orleans.

But funding for more lifeguards may be hard to come by.

The state legislature controls how much money the TDC can give to public safety. Right now, Bay County and Panama City Beach are collecting nearly a million dollars. Some local officials say more is needed to keep people safe.

At a recent beach safety workshop, local leaders discussed alternative ways to fund the lifeguards.

"We did talk about having a public and private partnership with some of the condos and hotels here and hopefully we can come to fruition on getting some of those stood up," said McConnell.

With rough Gulf waters putting beachgoers in danger this summer, rescues put a huge strain on beach lifeguards.

"We only have the funding for two towers so there's only four of us down here so when we're running rescues back to back to back, we get exhausted after probably, like, rescue five or six," said Thore.

Making the main message from community leaders more urgent.

"Be safe, keep an eye out on our flag system and have a good time."

Officials say they hope the new Beach Safety Ordinance will keep people out of dangerous waters.

The ordinance rules state anyone who goes in the water when double red flags are flying could face fines up to 500 dollars, or even jail time.

Copyright 2019 WJHG. All rights reserved.

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