Officials urge caution on Memorial Day weekend

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Lifeguards in South Walton and Okaloosa County have spent months preparing for what is expected to be a 100 percent capacity at lodgings throughout the Panhandle.

By Heather Osbourne | 315-4440 | @heatheronwfdn | hosbourne@nwfdailynews.com

Beach safety officials are warning beachgoers to be cautious as unpredictable weather is expected for the Memorial Day weekend.

Lifeguards in South Walton and Okaloosa County have spent months preparing for what is expected to be a 100 percent capacity at lodgings throughout the Panhandle.

Four extra lifeguards will be on duty in South Walton, with 37 guards covering 26 miles of beach. In Destin, there will be eight extra lifeguards for a total of 15.

Residents and tourists alike are encouraged to pay close attention to public service announcements, signage and beach flags to stay updated on water conditions. In South Walton, favorable weather is expected.

“We’re really hoping for a continued flat spell,” said David Vaughan, the South Walton Fire District’s beach safety director. “I’m really relieved because two days ago we were flying double-red flags. Now we’ve moved to single red flags.”

Destin Beach Safety Chief Joe D’Agostino said they also expect to see yellow flags throughout the weekend.

“The surf will be small, but we’ll still have dangerous rip currents,” D’Agostino said. “There is still a possibility that we will fly red.”

Vaughan said lifeguards will take extra caution from 3 to 6 p.m., when dangerous water conditions, heat stroke, seizures and extreme sunburn are most common.

“We try our hardest to keep people from getting into trouble,” Vaughan said. “Our primary focus is to keep people as safe as possible.”

D’Agostino asked visitors to heed any advice given by beach patrols.

“We’re not trying to stop your fun,” he said. “We’re just trying to keep things from becoming tragedies.”

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