4 Lives Lost to Rip Currents in 48 Hours: Panama City Beach Braces as US’ Deadliest

FLORIDA, PANAMA CITY BEACH — Four people drowned in rip currents in the space of 48 hours off Panama City Beach, raising the death toll from the dangerous waters off this county’s coast to nine since February. This death rate ensures that Panama City Beach remains one of the most lethal beaches in the United States.

This started on Friday evening where the bodies of three young men from Alabama state, were retrieved successively. The Sheriff’s office in Bay County confirmed that the two men were in Panama City Beach in the afternoon of the same day and entered the water at about 8 p. m. Though beach patrol and rescue swimmers arrived at the scene within moments, they could not save any of the men, who were declared dead on the scene.

The day before, on Thursday, the rescuers failed to save a 19-year-old man from Oklahoma who was caught in a rip current in the water near Sharky’s Beachfront Restaurant in Panama City Beach. The victim, who has been named as Ryker Milton, was pursuing seminary education and was, therefore, observing the role of a student pastor at New Community Church.

Panama City Beach is on the list of the most dangerous beaches in the United States, as at least eight people died from rip currents in the area last year, based on data from the NWS. Even though Florida has dangerous waters it registered more than 30 deaths due to rip currents in 2023 alone while other coastal states such as New Jersey, California, South Carolina and Louisiana recorded less deaths.

Rip currents, or channels of fast moving water that can suddenly sweep a swimmer out to sea, are one such hazard often not noticed on popular beach areas in summers. According to the National Ocean Service, several thousands of people are saved from rip currents each year along the coast of the United States.

Although rip currents can occur anywhere that has breaking waves including the shores of the Great Lakes, Florida coast remains one of the most dangerous. Six people were swept and drowned at Florida beaches this week only by rip currents, 17 people died due to rip currents in the United States of America as of June 9, 2024.

Apart from that, a couple from Pennsylvania was found dead from drowning Thursday as they were taking a swim at Stuart Beach on Hutchinson Island. Warter, 51, and Wishard, 48, were driving their six children on vacation when the tragedy struck. Their two teenage children, however, managed to swim and escape the current.

The NWS estimated that rip currents contributed to approximately 91 deaths at the US beaches in 2023 and had an average of 74 deaths in the last 10 years. Also most of the victims are boys and men in the age range of 10 to 29 years and most of these incidents occur in the month of June and July.

Scientists also emphasize the importance of understanding the risks associated with rip currents. Swimmers are also advised not to panic but instead swim along the shore in an attempt to escape the rip current. Trembling and struggle to return to shores cause tiredness and drowning.

Mayors recommend that one should always check the safety of the water before entering the sea and should not swim at unpatrolled beaches. The rules are rather strict in Florida: one cannot swim when there are two red flags, which is an indication that water is very deadly. One danger sign may indicate hazardous circumstances in which forecasted high wave occurrences may lead to powerful rip currents and swimming is prohibited.

While discussing the nature of water rescues in Panama City Beach, Daryl Paul, a beach safety director at Panama City Beach Fire Rescue informed me that most of the rescues happen when there is a single red flag. He emphasised that one main danger can be observed with hardly any waves at all, and that is the rip currents. The above statistics were obtained through research and they revealed that one of the two deaths in Bay County occurred under single red flag circumstances and the remaining seven deaths occurred under double red flag circumstances and very high wave activity.

“Well, it may sound like waves are on a killing spree here,” Paul argued. But here is the fact: It is not the waves which pose the danger but rip currents, which is why we are raising the flags.

With PCB currently threatening to be experiencing another lethal year, the inhabitants of Panama City Beach and the relevant authorities remain in a constant fight against rip currents and at the same time, in an effort of spreading awareness.

Impact of Rip Currents on Tourism at Panama City Beach

The most popular attractions of Panama City Beach are the immaculate sandy shores and the amazing turquoise waters of the Gulf, thus a majority of visitors prefer the place to swim, water ski, parasail, fish and sun bath among other activities. Some of the features include many trimmed resorts, restaurants, and other places of entertainment which enabled the area to become a favorite spot for summer holidays.

However, one has to admit that rip currents are a certain threat to any people on the coast and in any way influence the sphere of tourism. Rip currents are strong, narrow, and swift moving water which starts at the shore and can pull out the swimmers. This leads to closure of beaches or giving out health warnings that causes people to stay off the waters thereby causing numeric effects on business like tourism.

To prevent or reduce the risk of rip current, the following measures can be taken, Campaign to educate people on swimming and on how to look out for rip currents, hiring of life guards and warning signals such as colored flags to indicate the state of water. These include attempts to enhance the safety of the visitors and to maintain the image of Panama City Beach as a safe and entertaining place to visit in the framework of the dangers connected with the rip currents.

1 Comment
  1. إرسال سيرتك says

    So unique!

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.