Woman becomes 31st victim of rough water, rip currents in Florida this year

According to a NOAA database, at least 31 people have died along the Florida coastline in 2023. Nearly every death was attributed to rip currents.

PANAMA CITY, Fla. – The death of a swimmer along the Florida Panhandle marks at least the 31st fatality in the Sunshine State attributed to rough ocean conditions, according to a NOAA database.

The Bay County Sheriff’s Office, which serves a large coastline around Panama City, said that double red flags were in place Monday due to hazardous swimming conditions created by the high surf and strong currents.

First responders performed dozens of rescues but did say a woman who was pulled from the water along Panama City Beach did not survive after being taken to a local medical center for treatment.

Rip Current Threat
(FOX Weather)


Her death was attributed to the rough water conditions and is at least the 16th fatality in Florida since the start of meteorological summer, with many other deaths occurring around the spring break time period.

Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford previously called the uptick in water-related deaths "tragic and unnecessary" and clearly was frustrated over the lack beachgoers' awareness to warnings put out by several agencies.


The National Weather Service office in Tallahassee attributed many of the events, especially during the early half of the month, to breaks in a sandbar that was just offshore.

"There were a lot of breaks in the sandbar, which means that there was going to be a lot of rip currents because those breaks are where the water is going to be flowing out a lot quicker, especially if the conditions are just right," the NWS said.

In addition to flags and signs on local beaches, authorities have even used cell phone alerts to anyone in the vicinity of the shoreline.

"Not only do swimmers place themselves in danger but also first responders that enter the water to save them, and well-meaning citizens who try to rescue distressed swimmers and become overwhelmed themselves," deputies said.

Beachgoers who enter the water in Bay County under double red flag conditions can receive a fine of upwards of $500 and can be arrested.


According to the NOAA database, 71 deaths are reported every year from rip currents across the country and ranks as the third-greatest weather-related killer.

As of Tuesday evening, meteorologists continued to warn of the increased threat of rip currents along the Florida Panhandle, especially on beaches between Destin and Panama City.