This Memorial Day weekend brought some sights that haven’t been seen much along the Emerald Coast with the recent statewide shutdowns that came with the coronavirus.
Cars filled the parking lots at The Boardwalk, Beasley and Gulf Islands National Seashore parks, and the handful of Air Force beach accesses along Okaloosa Island. People toted colorful floats and wagons with coolers, chairs and other supplies as they made their way to the beach Monday morning.
On Okaloosa Island, beach regular Dayn Lacke has set up his beach chair behind the boardwalk everyday day this weekend.
"It’s been busier than usual," said Lacke. "But they’re (beachgoers) keeping their distance. The only time they don’t is when the lifeguard calls them in from the water to talk to them."
And this weekend, that’s been a lot.
Rich Huffnagle, Okaloosa County’s Beach Safety Division Chief, said they’ve been flying single red flags all weekend because of dangerous surf conditions and riptides. As of Monday afternoon, Huffnagle said lifeguards had conducted 10 rescues, fortunately none of which required the victims to be transported to the hospital.
Huffnagle said the conditions creating the rough surf will be around for a few more days and his lifeguards are encouraging people to stay out of the water.
"The surf is going to be up and the rips are going to be pulling," said Huffnagle. "It’s not worth ruining a vacation."
And for those who simply must put their toes in the surf Huffnagle encourages them to stay in shallow water.
"We have a saying: knee deep is too deep," said Huffnagle.