The Bay County Sheriff’s Office has posted double red flags on the beaches of Bay County since Tuesday.
The flags indicate that the water is closed to residents and tourists due to very dangerous swimming conditions, including high surf and strong currents. Authorities said the conditions are a result of the heavy rain and storms forming in the Gulf.
Ruth Corley with the sheriff’s office is advising beach goers to “stay out of the water” and take the warning seriously.
“I think sometimes we have visitors to our area that are from places where they don’t have the Gulf waters to contend with,” said Corley. “They don’t understand how quickly rip currents can begin and can be extremely dangerous—not only to the person in the water at the time, but anyone who may try to be a hero and try to enter the water to rescue someone may find themselves, even if they consider themselves a strong swimmer and in good shape, may find themselves in danger of drowning.”
The sheriff’s office responded to 37 water-related calls on Tuesday, but made no arrests.
Corley said the warning is not unusual for this time of year. Any time there is a storm in the Gulf Coast, strong currents are expected—especially during Florida’s hurricane season.
Officials are monitoring the weather and will change the flags if necessary, but anticipate the double red flag warning through the next few days.
“If you come to Panama City Beach, you will not be entering the water,” said Corley.
Authorities in Bay County said anyone who refuses to leave the water is subject to arrest.