Gulf Drownings

Following Thursday’s two tragic drowning deaths, lifeguards across some 26-miles of South Walton County beaches kept a vigilant eye for anyone who might be in distress.

Red-flags were flying, indicating that folks should stay out of the water. It's deceiving because the surf appears relatively calm, but that's what makes rip currents and long shore currents so deadly.

Beach Safety Director Gary Wise explains, "Still currents run deep. If the water breaks to the depth of the sand, such a situation is where the water will go back out to sea."

Meghan White of Birmingham, Alabama was making sure her younger sister and her friends were not going past their knees in the water. They could feel the undertow.

"It is actually; I feel the sand. You call to them to be very careful, the current was strong," White said.

In the event of a double-red flag, no one is permitted in the water.

One could be fined $100 dollars for such a violation. Thursday, Scott Johnson of Illinois drowned while trying to save several others in distress.

Lt. Bryan Maule with the Walton Co. Sheriff's Dept. said, "Get to a phone, and get to a life guard. You shouldn't go out and try and help. You can find yourself in distress."

The early spring is a bad time of the year for rip-currents in the Gulf.

In 2003, six people drowned off Walton County in a single day.

Authorities advise beach goers to make sure they know the flag system and by all means abide by its guidelines.


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