Follow the Rules and Watch the Advisory Flags
Panama City Beach has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. The beach is a fun place but as with every other beach in the world, the waters must be respected. Make sure you have a great time in Panama City Beach by following the rules of the water and by watching the flags and understanding their meaning.
One of the most important things to watch out for is Rip Currents. What is a Rip Current?
A rip current, commonly referred to by the misnomer rip tide, is a strong channel of water flowing seaward from near the shore, typically through the surf line. Typical flow is at 0.5 metres per second (1-2 feet per second), and can be as fast as 2.5 metres per second (8 feet per second). They can move to different locations on a beach break, up to tens of metres (a few hundred feet) a day. They can occur at any beach with breaking waves, including the world's oceans, seas, and large lakes.
Rip currents are a source of danger for people in ocean and lake surf. They can be extremely dangerous, dragging swimmers away from the beach. Death by drowning comes following exhaustion while fighting the river or ocean current.
Although a rare event, rip currents can be deadly for non-swimmers as well: a person standing waist deep in water can be dragged into deeper waters, where they can drown if they are unable to swim and are not wearing a flotation device. Varying topography makes some beaches more likely to have rip currents; a few are notorious.
Rip currents cause more than 100 deaths annually in the United States. Rip currents cause 80% of rescues needed by beach lifeguards.
Escaping a rip current
A swimmer caught in a rip current should not attempt to swim back to shore directly against the rip. This risks exhaustion and drowning. A rip does not pull a swimmer under water; it carries the swimmer away from the shore in a narrow channel of water. The rip is like a treadmill which the swimmer needs to step off. The swimmer should remain calm and swim parallel to the shore until he or she is outside of the current. Locations to aim for are places where waves are breaking. In these areas, floating objects are generally transported towards the shore.
A swimmer in a strong rip, who is unable to swim away from it, should relax and calmly float or tread water to conserve energy. Eventually the rip will lose strength, and the swimmer can swim at a leisurely pace, in a diagonal direction, away from the rip but back to shore. Coastal swimmers should understand the danger of rip currents, learn how to recognize them and how to escape from them, and swim in areas where lifeguards are operating, whenever possible.
BEACH WARNING FLAGS
Water Closed To Public
High Hazard - High Surf And/Or Strong Currents
Medium Hazard - Moderate Surf And/Or Strong Currents
Low Hazard - Calm Condition, Exercise Caution
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