Recently, Walton County announced they will begin enforcing stricter sanctions for double- red flag violations. This was approved by the commissioner earlier this year due to increasing numbers of negligence from beachgoers.
What does it mean when there's a double-red flag? A double-red flag warns the public of dangerous water conditions and more specifically, that water is closed!
The new ordinance states that an individual who enters ocean waters with a double-red flag warning will be fined a $500 ticket. As stated, the main reason for the change is the increased resistance from the double-red flag rule. It was noted, from the start of 2020 through October last year, there were 302 incidents logged of people ignoring double-red flags.
Additionally, the county is considering other changes, such as the language presented for the double-red flag protocol. Prior to 2021, the protocol for double-red flag provided that beachgoers could enter the ocean as long as the water hit below the knee. However, this does raise some concerns as there are have been issues with, “sneaker waves.” In other words, a large wave can appear with a group of waves without warning. At the hearing, they reviewed other languages such as “stay on dry sand.” Unfortunately, this language also raised a few other problematic issues as this would impact privately owned sections of Fort Walton’s 26-mile beaches. In support to prevent individuals from accessing dry sand on private property they also considered language that would allow beachgoers to walk on the wet sand.
In the end, the commissioner decided they need to regroup on this issue regarding language for the public. The bottom line, do not access the ocean waters when there’s a double-red flag. You will be ticketed a $500 ticket, or worse, it could cost you an injury or even your life.
At this time, it should be noted, the ordinance exempts surfers from double-red flag enforcement "unless a mandatory evacuation order for the adjacent beach property has been issued." The ordinance defines surfing as the "riding or paddling of a surfboard within the waters of the Gulf of Mexico abutting or adjacent to the beach."
Stay safe friends and enjoy the sunshine.