Pinellas County lifeguards preparing for spring break crowds

CLEARWATER BEACH, Fla. (WFLA) — Clearwater Beach lifeguards have a lot to watch over from their perch 10 feet up.

“There’s a lot of moving parts to it,” explained Patrick Brafford, the Clearwater Beach lifeguard supervisor. “Over an average of a full day, operating hours out here, it can be quite exhausting with these crowds and large numbers of people.”

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As spring breakers flock to the Tampa Bay Area, Clearwater Beach is fully staffing — and sometimes double staffing — all seven lifeguard towers and three mobile patrols, with about 12 lifeguards on duty every day. Officials said they’ve already responded to several water rescues, medical emergencies and preventative actions for visitors.

“Prepare for a day at the beach, make sure you set up by a lifeguard tower,” Brafford suggested. “Always swim near a lifeguard. Utilize that lifeguard tower for information, they’re going to know what’s going on, what the weather is, expectations of the day are.”

With Miami Beach discouraging tourists, Clearwater is anticipating an increase.

“I would think it’s reasonable to expect,” Brafford said. “People who are not going to other beaches this year to frequent our beach, to come here and spend their time here.”

Like Ian Middleton and his family from Ontario, Canada, who are visiting the area before they leave for a cruise.

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“Just make sure we know where they are at all times,” Middleton said of what he tells his kids. “We can see them at all times and to know where the lifeguards are.”

Middleton said he made sure his kids know how to swim, but also know the water is dangerous, as it was for a 17-year-old in the waters off Indian Shores on Wednesday.

“It can happen to anybody,” Middleton said. “You hear of in that case, or other people who are seasoned swimmers, it just takes one quick moment where you’re caught off guard and you can’t recover.”

Friday was a moderate day for traffic at the beach during midday, but all towers are fully staffed for spring break no matter what the traffic may be.

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