Hurricane Ike passed the Panhandle more than 300-miles out in the gulf, but Bay County beaches are seeing churning seas and beach erosion. It's still too soon to tell how much damage Ike may have caused to the beach. Today appeared to be just another beautiful day at the beach, but this was not the case yesterday.
"When we got here last night and we walked around the hotel, I thought, 'Oh my gosh! I couldn't believe it. I have never seen the ocean here like that ever," said Candy Shaffer, who is visiting from Tennessee.
Hurricane Ike has become a mammoth churning storm since entering the gulf. Even though Bay County is more than 300 miles away from the storm, they're still feeling Ike's wrath.
Don Rowe, CEO of the Panama City Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau, said, "Ike is having an effect on some of the sand. The beach took some light to moderate erosion during Gustav, but the beach began to immediately build back."
While it is too soon to assess erosion damage from Ike, Panama City Beach Visitors’ Bureau employees remain cautiously optimistic.
“Ike has whipped it, flattened the beach again, and we hope that the sand is right off shore. As soon as Ike moves out of the gulf and on to the Texas coast, the waters are going to calm down, recede, and we'll start seeing the sand build back again," said Rowe.
Taking inventory of beach erosion is a costly endeavor to the Tourist Development Bureau, but locals do not need to worry about added taxes.
Rowe said, "Part of the Tourist Development Tax for Panama City goes specifically to the beach renourishment activities. We have a trust fund established for those purposes, so it comes out of the lodging tax we collect, so the locals of Panama City Beach don't foot any of that bill."
Officials want everyone to enjoy the gulf coast beaches safely, so when the waters look like a washing machine, it may be best to wait for the calm after the storm.
"Last night we took a stroll down the beach, and we weren't out that far, but a huge wave rolled in and went over his head, and got him. We were only ankle deep, and I had to save his life" said Candy Schaffer.
Double red flags are still flying at Bay County beaches, but the visitors’ bureau says once the waters calm down, September is one of the nicest months to enjoy the beach.