PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Lifeguards at Clearwater Beach are keeping a close eye on the severe weather expected to roll in across Tampa Bay.
The cold front that’s making its way into the area is churning up the Gulf and making the surf dangerous for swimmers.
On Thursday afternoon, the red flag was flying over Lifeguard Station 4, just south of Pier 60. That means there is a high hazard for high surf and/or strong currents.
Patrick Brafford, the lifeguard manager for Clearwater Beach, talked to 8 On Your Side about the dangers swimmers may face in strong currents.
“We’re getting a lot of everything right now,” said Brafford. “With the increasing wind coming out of the south, southwest, we do have an increase for rip currents.”
Only a handful of people were in the water shortly after noon. Andy Tabar was one of them.
“It’s scary because you think, I’m a big guy, I can handle whatever comes at me, but those things will just knock you right over,” said Tabar. “I mean the current is definitely moving down the beach very swiftly, and then it also pulls you in a little bit and then you get pushed back in.”
Others elected to keep their feet firmly planted on the sand. Kristy Langendorf is one of them.
“Red flag is up. Yellow one was up earlier,” said Langendorf. “So I have no desire to take a chance on it.”
Alex Cruz lives in Clearwater and told 8 On Your Side he is not going to chance it.
“If I’m walking in there, that sand underneath you will go out real quick. It will go right out from under you,” said Cruz. “I used to live in New York and we would go to Rockaway, same thing. In the heavy weather, you could be standing right there and the sand will sweep under you and you will drop right in.”
Brafford explains a quick trip to any lifeguard station in Clearwater will provide some important information for anyone contemplating getting into the water.
“You’ve got some of the best lifeguards in the state out here. Go up and talk to that lifeguard,” said Brafford. “Ask them what’s going on. Ask them what’s going on and get you a good education before you make your decision.”