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Heading to the beach this spring bring break? Local officials have a message for you

March 8, 2024

As spring break approaches and travelers make their way to the Sunshine State’s beach towns, local authorities and lifeguards want you and your family to prioritize safety when soaking up the sun.

In anticipation of an influx of visitors, coastal communities are promoting beach safety guidelines to ensure beachgoers have a safe and enjoyable experience.

One of the biggest dangers at the beach is in the water. The United States Lifesaving Association estimates that 80% of all rescues by lifeguards are rip current rescues.

“Most individuals are just sitting in the water minding their own business,” Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Captain Matthew Sparling said. “Next thing you know, they're in a rip current. They don't even know they're in trouble.”

Rip currents usually develop when there are high winds or waves. In Florida, March and April are, on average, the windiest months of the year. When wind comes on shore, the water hits the shoreline and returns to the ocean, creating a current that goes offshore.

To spot a rip current, look for an area having a notable difference in water color.

Dr. Wendy Carey/Delaware Sea Grant/NOAA

To spot a rip current, look for an area having a notable difference in water color.

“Some of these currents have been recorded at one to two feet per second,” Sparling said. “That's usually the average, but we've had rip currents being registered at eight feet a second, which is a lot faster than an Olympic swimmer.”

If caught in a rip current, it is best to not fight the current. Instead, move parallel to shore.

Sparling tells all visitors to swim with a lifeguard present, proceed with caution on windier days and use a flotation device when entering the water.

Beach flag warning system

Lifeguards utilize a uniform flag system to alert the public of potential safety risks. The colored flags indicate hazards and threats present. The system is consistent throughout the state of Florida.

A double red flag indicates the water and/or the beach is closed to the public.

One red flag indicates a high hazard with dangerous rip currents/surf conditions. Avoid entering the water.

A yellow flag indicates a medium hazard with moderate rip currents/surf conditions are present. Proceed with care.

A green flag indicates a low hazard with the possibility of larger waves and rip currents.

A purple flag indicates dangerous marine life (jellyfish, man-o-wars, sea lice) present. This flag may be flown with other flags.

Florida Department of Environmental Protection

Preparing for large crowds

Miami-Dade County and other Florida municipalities are taking extra precautions to handle the crowds as colleges and other schools go on break.

Law enforcement will be present at spring break hotspots like Miami Beach, Daytona Beach and Panama City Beach on the direction of Governor Ron DeSantis.

If you have plans to make it to the beach soon, expect large crowds and heavy traffic. Officials are expecting record-breaking numbers this year.

For more weather information and forecasts this spring, follow Florida Public Emergency Network.

Sources include nearest National Weather Service office, National Hurricane Center, and the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network (@FloridaStorms).
Sources include nearby emergency management agencies, FEMA, and your local NPR affiliate. 
Sources include the Florida Department of Transportation, Florida Highway Patrol and other nearby traffic information.

1885 Stadium Road
PO Box 118405
Gainesville, FL 32611
(352) 392-5551

A service of WUFT at the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications 

Partners of the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network include: Florida's Division of Emergency Management, WDNA (Miami), WFIT (Melbourne), WMFE (Orlando), WFSU (Tallahassee), WGCU (Fort Myers), WJCT (Jacksonville), WKGC (Panama City), WLRN (Miami), WMNF (Tampa-Sarasota), WQCS (Fort Pierce), WUFT (Gainesville-Ocala), WUSF (Tampa), WUWF (Pensacola) and Florida Public Media.

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