Memorial Day weekend is ‘right on par’

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JENNIE McKEON @JennieMnwfdn

There’s one word to sum up the Memorial Day weekend — crowds.

The unofficial kick-off to the summer season saw warm weather, packed beaches and a lot of traffic.

But according to public safety officials, it’s been a pretty standard holiday weekend so far.

“It’s been a pretty busy weekend,” said Capt. Jeff Anderson of Destin Fire Department. “It’s right on par with the last few years.”

In the Destin area, Anderson said the department has crew on land and water throughout the weekend.

“The boat goes out Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday all day with a dedicated crew from now through the 100 days of summer,” he said.

Most of the calls they’ve received have been water-based. Saturday morning, firefighters went to the rescue of a boat with seven people on board that was taking in water, a missing kayaker that was later found and numerous people getting caught in the rip current.

“We get a lot of people trying to swim from Crab Island to the beach, or they get on a paddleboard and get stuck,” Anderson said. “We always know we’re going to be super busy this time of year.”

Captain Ray Strawn at Okaloosa Island Fire Department said they had a total of eight calls on Saturday and just a handful of calls by Sunday afternoon.

“It’s been run-of-the-mill,” he said. “We generally see motor vehicle accidents, beach rescues and medical calls during this weekend.”

There were three fatal crashes in the Northwest Florida area this past weekend. On Saturday morning a Navarre man was killed in a crash in front of Hurlburt Field, Saturday night a Georgia man was struck while changing his tire in Bay County and a Chipley man died in a crash on State Road 77 in Washington County Sunday morning.

On Navarre Beach, there’s certainly more people, but firefighters say the weekend has been slow overall. Navarre Beach firefighter Chris Jines said people have been behaving for the most part.

Bethany and Shane Lee from Atlanta have been coming to Navarre Beach for the past two years with their sons to celebrate Memorial Day and their wedding anniversary. Bethany pulls out her phone and shares a photo her friend took of a packed beach in Destin.

“That’s why we come here,” she said with a laugh. “It’s easier to find a spot. And you can see the beach instead of just looking at people in front of you.”

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