By DOTTY NIST
Impacts from Hurricane Delta were relatively minor in Walton County but did result in rough surf and some rain.
Hurricane Delta entered the Gulf of Mexico after making her first landfall on the Yucatan Peninsula on Oct. 7, then moving across the south central Gulf of Mexico toward Cameron, La.
On the afternoon of Oct. 9, located about 200 miles south of Cameron, Delta had intensified to a Category 3 on with maximum sustained winds of 120 miles per hour. The hurricane weakened to sustained winds of 100 miles per hour while moving onshore, making landfall near Creole, La., as a Category 2 during the early evening of Oct. 9.
Delta’s maximum sustained winds had weakened to 45 miles per hour by the time she had moved inland to about 45 miles south southeast of Monroe, La., on Oct. 10. Moving over western Mississippi later on Oct. 10, Delta weakened to a depression, then traveling to the area south of Nashville by Oct. 11.
Walton County got rain associated with Hurricane Delta’s presence in the gulf, with drenching rain coming down during the evening on Oct. 8. Rough surf conditions related to Delta were experienced as well.
David Vaughan, beach safety director for the South Walton Fire District (SWFD) reported a total of 18 water rescues during double red flag conditions over the Oct. 9 – 11 weekend.
Double red advisory flags were flown all three days, signifying that the water was closed to the public due to dangerous surf conditions. Entering the water when it has been officially closed to the public represents a violation of the Walton County Beach Activities Ordinance.
Vaughan said lifeguards conducted eight water rescues on Oct. 9, three on Oct. 10, and seven on Oct. 11, most involving multiple victims. “It was a super busy weekend,” he commented.
No drownings were reported in Walton County for the time period.
The lifeguards implement a “roving” operation using ATVs on double red flag days, with lifeguards making contact with all beachgoers they encounter, not just those in lifeguard tower areas. They warn beachgoers to stay out of the water.
As with other water rescues this year on double red flag days, Vaughan said most of the problem has been with beachgoers from outside of the area, some of whom have responded to lifeguards’ warnings with anger and defiance. However, Vaughan said that lifeguards are also encountering a lot of support on this issue, particularly from locals.
David Demarest, director of marketing and communications for the Walton County Tourist Development Council (TDC), noted, “It appears that Hurricane Delta did not cause reported damage or significant additional beach erosion.”
He said the Campbell Street Neighborhood Beach Access, which had been closed shortly after Hurricane Sally, is now reopened. The access is located in the Seagrove community.
Also located in Seagrove, the Holly Street Neighborhood Beach Access has been closed since mid-September following Hurricane Sally due to storm damage. Demarest said the TDC had been cleared by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to rebuild that beach access to its original footprint.
He explained that there had been some structural damage to the access resulting from sand eroding from the area under the pilings. The short-term remedy, Demarest commented, will be to bring in pilings with adequate reach to support the structure. He noted that plans are for TDC to seek a DEP permit for a dune restoration project in order to put a long-term solution in place at the beach access.