VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – Beachgoers can see and feel the effects of Hurricane Michael along the beaches of Volusia County, where rough surf and high tide have prompted lifeguards to fly the red flag and close beach access ramps Tuesday.
"We're looking at about 5-to 7-foot surf right now. It's blowing hard out there, the water is coming in, reaching seawalls," Capt. Tammy Malphurs said.
Winds reportedly reached up to 48 mph on Tuesday and the gates were closed at the beach access ramps for part of the morning and in the afternoon. Beach Safety Patrol packed up chairs, traffic signs and trash cans due to the strong winds. Lifeguards said beach erosion is possible but they haven't seen any yet.
There are still lifeguards monitoring the ocean but many of the stands have been brought in for safekeeping.
Anyone who does chooses to visit one of the county's beaches is urged to use caution, use off-beach parking and swim in front of a staffed lifeguard tower.
The red flag warning indicates that there's a high hazard on the beach. While the water is still open to the public, swimmers should use caution and remain vigilant. If at any point lifeguards chose to fly a double red flag, then the water will be closed to the public.
"The surf is pounding. If you go out there, it can pound you right into the sandbar," Malphurs said. "If you need to go out there, make sure you call us first and we'll tell you where to go. But please, be extremely careful. If you do want to try and enter the water, we're saying ankle-deep water and that's it."
The choppy conditions come as Hurricane Michael makes its way toward the Florida Panhandle. The storm is expected to make landfall Wednesday, likely as a Category 3 hurricane.
As Central Florida prepares to feel effects from the storm, Volusia County Schools canceled all outdoor activities scheduled for Wednesday.