With summer here, safety officials in Florida are urging beach-goers to stay safe in the water. After a near-drowning incident recently, one Dothan man saw the dangers high waves can bring, first-hand. It’s a moment retired Dothan Police Officer, Keith Gray, won’t soon forget. “I saw a group of people and I ran as fast as I could without thinking. I jumped in the water and swam to where they were, and there was this unconscious female face up. They were holding her above the water, but you could clearly see there was no life in her body,” said Keith Gray, Dothan resident.Gray and another man performed CPR on the 14 year old Texas girl before EMS officials arrived. “Thank God she came back,” said Gray. What is unfortunate is that drownings are a recurring problem. Why? We have so many people that come into our area and they are not familiar with their swimming ability or the flag system and how to read it. With only four rescuers on duty this summer, Carol Wagner, Beach and Surf Patrol Supervisor in Panama City Beach, says it can get overwhelming with the large amount of tourists in one area at one time. She urges vacationers to not only take a look at the flag colors, but also learn their meanings before even coming to the beach. Flags range from green to double red. Green, being the best conditions. While double red means the water is closed to the public. Wagner also says it’s important to know your own swimming ability before getting in the water.
On Pensacola Beach, lifeguards were very busy as Tropical storm Bill came ashore in Texas. The storm caused high seas and dangerous conditions along the Gulf Coast. Red flags were flying and lifeguards were working to keep swimmers out of the water. It turned deadly Sunday. One person drowned, another taken to the hospital and dozens more pulled from the water. Lifeguards got on the clock early Tuesday morning. There were also added lifeguards on duty and more patrols. They made 8 rescues before 3pm on Tuesday. Lifeguards started the morning off with yellow flags, hopeful the gulf would calm down throughout the day. Those expectations were short lived and red flags went up just after 11 a.m. Life guards had to emphasize the red flags to nearly 16,000 people between Saturday and Monday, daring nature with a swim.
Flag warnings and colors are:
Green: Low hazard, calm conditions, exercise caution.
Yellow: Medium hazard, moderate surf and/or currents.
Red: High hazard, high surf and/or strong currents.
Red over Red [i.e., two red flags]: Water closed to the public.
Purple: Dangerous marine life.”