CLEARWATER (FOX 13) - Red flags were up across the Tampa Bay coast Monday and could be out again Tuesday, warning swimmers of dangerous conditions brought on by nearby storms.
Clearwater's beach safety supervisor, Patrick Brafford, explained why the red flag warning was necessary and why, although swimming is allowed, beachgoers should stay near the lifeguard towers.
"Red flag is high hazard. Once you get strong currents, heavy surf or a combination of both, then you elevate the threat level and we go to a red flag," said Brafford. "The big message is, we don't want to give a false sense of security."
The National Weather Service issued a rip current warning through Tuesday for most of the Bay Area's coast, from Pinellas through Lee County.
Those warnings, however, didn't keep everyone out of the water and even some strong swimmers had close calls.
"I went all the way out to where the signs are posted and it says, 'swim at your own risk,' just to hit the waves and the currents kind of pulled me in, so I was swimming underneath the waves and a guy with a boogie board had to come out and get me on the boogie board and bring me back in," said Laurie Christopher, who was a lifeguard for at least four years. "It was pretty scary. I started seeing black spots."
"The [wave] just slams me down underwater and next thing I know, I'm slammed under the water and I keep getting the water on top of me," said Rob Berry, who was visiting Clearwater Beach from Buffalo. "I'm a great swimmer, but if you put a normal swimmer out there, they might have had some problems out there today."
According to the National Weather Service, if you get caught in a rip current, you should stay calm, yell for help and swim parallel to the shore, rather than against the current, until it's safe to swim back toward shore.