Beach Warning Flags
Our public beach areas and conditions are monitored throughout each day. Please remember that the absence of red flags does not assure safe conditions. Please DO NOT enter the water when the double red flag is being flown.
You're all packed for a day at the beach. You've got sunscreen, a beach chair and a good book, and you're looking forward to a day in the sun and surf. When you arrive at the beach, though, it's lined with red flags. The United States Lifesaving Association, in conjunction with the International Lifesaving Federation, has developed a flag warning system that has been adopted by coastal communities worldwide to notify beachgoers of potential water hazards. Understanding and heeding these colored flags keeps you safe in the water and helps you enjoy your trip to the beach.
Red FlagsThe most serious of all beach warning flags, red flags warn swimmers of serious hazards in the water. One red flag means that the surf is high or there are dangerous currents, or both. Though you can still swim if there is a red flag, you should use extreme caution and go in the water only if you're a strong swimmer. Two red flags, however, means that the water is closed to swimming, as conditions are too dangerous for even the strongest swimmers. In some communities, red flags feature the symbol of a swimmer with a white line through it, indicating that swimming is prohibited.
Yellow FlagsWhen ocean conditions are rough, but not life-threatening, you might see an yellow flag on the beach. A yellow flag indicates potentially high surf or dangerous currents and undertows, and means that swimmers should exercise extreme caution. If there is a yellow flag, swim only near lifeguards and heed all lifeguard warnings. If you're swimming with children, or you aren't a strong swimmer yourself, wear a life jacket when swimming on yellow-flag days. Some beaches have a permanent yellow flag because of rocks, a sudden drop-off or a high population of bait fish that attracts predators.
Green FlagsThe ocean is always unpredictable, and even on clear and calm days, hazards still exist. Still, there are days when the threat of danger is lower than others. A green flag on the beach is an all-clear sign, indicating that it's safe to swim. Even when the flag is green, though, exercise caution in the ocean, listen to lifeguard warnings and keep a close eye on children.
Blue and Purple FlagsSharks, jellyfish and other dangerous marine life can turn a fun day at the beach into an unpleasant day at the hospital -- or worse. When potentially dangerous ocean animals have been spotted, you'll see a dark blue or purple flag. These flags fly either on their own or with other colored flags. If you see a blue or purple flag, but the water is not closed to swimming, use extreme caution and keep a close watch for dangerous animals.
Regional Differences Some beaches use flags that are particular to that beach or related to common activities there. For example, in areas where surfing is common, you may see a yellow flag with a black dot in the center. This flag marks an area where surfing is prohibited, giving swimmers an area where they can swim without encountering surfers. If you see a flag at the beach and do not know what it means, ask a lifeguard for an explanation or look for an indicator key near the beach entrance or in a public area.
About Rip Currents at Panama City Beach Avoid swimming during dangerous conditions
Enjoy your vacation at Panama City Beach New Flags Are Flying Over Panama City Beach. Officials are working to make Panama City Beach a safer place for you and your family. A state law enacted in 2003 promotes a uniform system of five beach flags to inform swimmers of local water conditions and warn them of dangerous conditions. Green flags signal low hazard - favorable conditions for swimming. Yellow flags mean medium hazard - use caution. A single red flag means high hazard. Red over red means danger - water closed to public use, stay out of the water. A purple flag means marine pests are present.
Many visitors are unaware of dangerous water conditions and what to do if encountered. Learn how to recognize these conditions and what to do if you encounter them.
What is a rip current and how to recognize
it. Rip currents are sometimes mistakenly called "rip tides" or "undertows." These are misnomers. Rip currents are not directly associated with tides and they do not pull people under. A rip current is a seaward moving current that circulates water back to sea after it is pushed ashore by waves. Each wave accumulates water on shore creating seaward pressure.
Eventually, so much water will pile up that it can break through the first sand bar in a small area. The large amount of water rushing out through a small break causes a strong current that flows perpendicular (away) from the shore and through the rip in the sand bar. This is the rip current. Once past the sand bar, the rip current is no longer confined to a small area (bottleneck) and will spreadout and disappear. Beach goers may be able to identify the existence of a rip current by looking for tell-tale signs. As incoming waves meet the outgoing rip, characteristic "explosions" of foam may be seen. Attempting to escape the rip by swimming toward the shore can quickly exhaust even the strongest swimmer.
If you feel a rip current don't panic. Call or wave for assistance and swim parallel to shore (the rip current is very narrow) or if caught by one, you can let it carry you out beyond the first sand bar where the breakers are forming and it will release you as it spreads out and disappears. It is best to avoid dangerous rip current conditions. Heed the "No Swimming" danger flags!
FLAG WARNING SYSTEMGreen - Low Hazard - Conditions are favorable for swimmingYellow - Medium HazardRed - High HazardRed Over Red - Danger - Water closed to public usePurple - Marine Pest PresentFor up-to-the-minute surf reports, call 850-233-5080
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