Florida has gotten quite a bit of publicity about shark attacks lately but it hasnt kept us locals out of the water. Shark attacks are VERY rare in Florida and more rare when you realize just how many people are playing in their depths.
Most of the shark attacks in Florida have been on tourist who dont obey or know the rules us locals follow.
Here are the rules of the water us locals follow:
First of all - do NOT swim in the ocean at dusk or dawn, this is when sharks feed
Second - AVOID the sand bars since this is where sharks hang out. If the first sand bar is close to shore its normally OK. The second sand bar is especially dangers for sharks and rip tides often hide behind them.
Florida beaches normally have two sand bars they are located underwater and parallel the beach. These can be spotted from the beach. They are the lighter and shallower areas.
The area by the second sand bar is the area where you are most likely to be attacked by sharks - this is the sharks home territory in an area most swimmers do not go. While the chances of getting attacked are rare here. Why take the chance?
Third - Use caution when swimming in cloudily water
Fourth - Don't swim while bleeding. If you get cut in the water for some reason leave the water
Fifth - Splashing around like crazy can attract sharks if your in shark prone water (sharks can mistake the splashing for a wounded fish and come to investigate)
Sixth - If someone is chumming the water (dropping fish parts and blood into the water) they are trying to attract sharks - get out of the water immediately
Great white sharks which are responsible for most shark attacks in the world are VERY RARE in Florida. Most shark attacks in Florida are from the Tiger and Bull Sharks, these smaller sharks do not consider humans as pray are thought to bite when they mistake us for other food sources.
If you are attacked hit the shark in its most sensitive area the eyes or nose and he will release you.
I would recommend avoiding walking through long grasses in Florida.
Reason 1 - CHIGGERS
Chiggers are little red bugs found in grass that dig into your skin. Their itch is ten times that of misquotes.
If you manage to get chiggers go to the drug store and buy clear nail polish place the nail polish on the red welts
Reason 2 - Ticks
Our ticks have Limes Disease now so need to be avoided at all costs
Reason 3 - Snakes
Our short lawn type of grasses often have "Fire ants" these ants sting like heck so most Floridians don't sit in the grass and take caution when walking through grass in their bare feet. I actually even avoid grasses that are fire ant free since the only way yards are fire ant free is by using LOTS of insecticides!
Florida beaches do sometimes have a rip tides.
Rip tides can take you out further out into the ocean and keep even the strongest swimmer away from the shore.
Florida also has a flag system that tell you about the water conditions. Green is good, yellow be careful, red bad rip currents keep out (purple is marine life that sings so keep out of the water). If a double red flag is flying it means you are NOT allowed in the water (conditions are too dangerous) & people who enter the water will also be ticketed and fined. This is done for your own safety and to keep us from having to keep on rescuing people which is expensive and dangerous. Last I heard the fine was $100.
About 20 years ago a friend and I got caught in them and we were lucky to get out alive. So be careful. The best way to avoid rip tide conditions is not to swim when warning flags are yellow or red (see my other tip that tells what are warning flags mean)
If you get caught in a rip tide the trick is to not try to beat it, instead stay calm and float when needed, and/or swim parallel to the shore. With this plan the tide will eventually bring you into shore or stop fighting you so you can easily swim in.
Bradenton Beach on Anna Maria Island has this huge sign right on Bridge Street that reads:
DOG WASTE IS A THREAT TO THE
HEALTH OF OUR CHILDREN -
DEGRADES OUR TOWN -
TRANSMITS DISEASE -
LEASH - CURB AND CLEAN UP
AFTER YOUR DOG
IT'S REQUIRED BY LAW!
$75.00 FINE BY ORDER OF
Dusk in Florida can be quite BUGGY!
The locals try to avoid being outside this time of the day. If you must be outside cover up and wear light colors and of course WEAR INSECT REPLENT!
Light colors have been proven to attract less bugs but wearing them won?t help much. I choose to wear insect repellent with DEET.
The West Nile Virus has been found in Florida and is deadly. The virus is relatively rare but why take the chance.
If you are renting a boat or a jet ski be sure to find out the local regulations and that your boat is equipped with the basic life preservers etc.
The coast guard is vigilant here and will fine you for violating any regulations. Anytime the coast guard stops you they will do a safety check to make sure you have the required supplies. i.e. life vests, flairs, anchor etc....
Be careful not to speed in no wake or manatee zones. These zones are guarded closely and the fines are heavy. We want to protect our natural resources and our presious manatee
and just a note Drinking and Driving a boat in Florida is a CRIME
Florida also has Jellyfish, when there are Jellyfish in the water, stay out of the water and enjoy the beach. While Jellyfish normally isn't deadly their stings are quite painful, equivalent to a wasp sting although if you swim into a long tentacle you can be covered in stings, equivalent to dozens of stings.
Jellyfish sting whenever it brushes against you so even the pieces of them washed up on the sand can sting.
If you are stung immediately remove the tentacle and go to the lifeguard station for first aid. Do NOT rub the area - it will just release more poison into your skin!
As soon as you get stung wash, and don’t rub, with seawater, vinegar or rubbing alcohol. The longer you wait to get the stingers off (many of these are very small) the more toxins get into you so do quickly. Lifeguard stations normally have jellyfish treatment kits.
Some recent studies show that traditional treatments for jellyfish stings such as putting urine, meat tenderizer and baking soda on the sting don't really help make the sting better. I still like making a paste of baking soda and cold water though; the cool paste offers temporary relief.
Another note the top of the jelly fish does not have toxins, it’s contact with the tenancies that cause the problems.
The sun and heat in Florida can be quite intense so be sure to?
1) drink plenty of water
2) wear sunscreen with at least an SPF of 30
3) wear a hat and sunglasses
4) sunglasses used on the beach or water need to be polarized to avoid burning the cornea
5) pay special attention to sunscreen and the effects of heat on children ? many locals put t-shirts over their children?s swim suits
The sun in Florida can be quite intense especially when you are on the water
sunglasses used on the beach or water need to be polarized to avoid burning the cornea
If your spending anytime here especially on or in the water I would actually recommend investing the money and get a good pair of POLARIZED sunglasses. Knock-offs sold on the side of the road do NOT offer the same protection and many of the big expensive brands of sunglasses are actually not polarized. If you?re in doubt ask.
I normally opt for fishing and sailing sunglass brands since they are known for good protection. One way to check to make sure the sunglasses are polarized is if you put two pairs of sunglasses together and rotate one pair over the others. If they are polarized when the pairs are perpendicular they will turn an opaque black (wont be able to see through them)
So, you are driving down US 41 looking for some place to go and you see a large, pulsating neon sign for Joyland - Country and Western Bar. Now, you might think that it would be a good idea to turn in here because a) you've never been to a Country / Western bar and think it would be funny b) the term "line dancing" has always appealed to you or c) you like beer and you don't care what kind of music they play.
I am telling you right now with all the seriousness of an enema: unless you know how to rope cattle or you have a natural pension for chew, DON'T GO TO JOYLAND. You are not welcome. Cowboys only - tourists and curious locals who aren't really part of the scene are advised to stay away.
I'm not saying that it's some scene from Deliverance or anything (though I didn't really stay that long), but I can say that unkind words and perhaps regrettable actions may be exchanged.
Trust me . . . I know.
US 41 is a very, very busy and very, very dangerous road. That said, it is also the road along which New College - my beloved former school and home to many, many hippies - is situated. New College's campus spans across both sides of US 41. As you are driving down US 41, you'll notice a pedestrian bridge to accomidate students as they travel from one side of campus to the other. (Here's the warning part.) For some reason, students at NCF don't like to use this bridge and will randomly dart out into on-coming traffic either on foot or by bike waving a flag of pedestrian freedom. Now, I think that there should be way more pedestrian posibilities in Florida than there are, but that doesn't change the current state of affairs or level of roadway danger. NCF hippies tend to disagree and feel by flying into traffic eventually they can bend it to their will. In the four years I went to school there, two hippies were hospitalized for an ill-fated trek into traffic. So, please, if you are near the corner of US 41 and University Parkway, watch for hippies. You don't want to ruin your vacation with the guilt that you mowed down a future celebrity botanist or feminist scholar.
If you're on the beach and see the hundreds of gulls or other small bird life, you may be tempted to feed them some bread or other small food items. Don't.
The birds have gotten to know that humans like to feed them, and if you get too close with food, they will pick it out of your hands, even if you didn't intend for them to have it. (I have seen people lose hot dogs this way.)
Leave them alone and they will leave you alone. It's as simple as that, and you will enjoy your peaceful beach time. Otherwise, you're in for a quickly overwhelming experience as you throw your remaining loaf of bread up in the air as a last ditch attempt to fend off the screaming hordes of birds.
Red Tide Warnings
Make sure you don’t go to beaches or go into waters that are closed due to red tide.
Red tide happens in ocean waters periodically. It is caused by an increased presence of plant-based plankton. When this plankton gets out of control it is called a “red tide bloom.” These blooms produce toxins that can poison fish and can be harmful to humans.
Beaches with bad red tide blooms will post a red warning flag or even close. While some beaches are not considered safe other beaches will be safer.
During Red Tide blooms many locals avoid going in the ocean and still others avoid going to the beach even for a walk. Red tide toxins can become airborne and there are reports of bad blooms triggering asthma attacks and other health/breathing problems.
Red tide can often be spotted by the water’s reddish color and bad smell (I think the smell s more a function to the number of fish that are killed by the bloom).
I know all these warnings might make the Florida and the ocean look dangerous and I really don’t want to give that impression. Us locals love the water and are in it all the time. There are some things you should know - in my mind knowledge is power.
For more info see
So you are on vacation and a hurricane is coming...or you are going to the Atlantic during hurricane season and want to know what to do. First and foremost don't panic...and listen to the authorities. The cone of uncertainty is big so it may not hit you....
I’ve lived off the Atlantic Ocean for 20 years now and during that time have lived through quite a few hurricanes (I was also on a cruise ship in the Atlantic during Hurricane Andrew which is one of the worse storms in US history - horrible situation). Luckily the Tampa Bay area is not a prime location for hurricanes since to get us the storms would have to head up the Atlantic and make a sharp right.
However, Sarasota has been hit in the past few decades and both Tampa and Sarasota are put on alert every year and there is nothing to say that we won't get hit this hurricane season.
The smart locals here have a hurricane kit ready before hurricane season is here and recheck and purchase any supplies that are low at least 3 days before the hurricane is scheduled to hit. Hurricanes are not something to play around with. Be aware and be safe. When a hurricane hits help comes from out of town and it takes time to organize it and get them here. The authorities will also be totally overwhelmed so you cannot rely on them. You need to have everything you need to survive without any assistance, water or electricity for a MINIMUM of 72 hours (I plan for a week)! It is up to you to be self sufficient.
Officially the Atlantic Hurricane season is June 1 to November 30th. However, the most probable time for hurricanes is from mid September to mid October (think September 11 to October 11).
There are 6 main dangers in a hurricane: (1) the hurricane force winds themselves, (2) the storm surge which is the hurricane pushing the water from the ocean inland, (3) flying debris, (4) flooding from the rain, and (5) tornadoes that spin off and (6) traffic and panicked drivers. All 6 of these are very real dangers that you need to plan for.
My Advice if there is a storm in the Gulf of Mexico
+ Be aware of the storm and the “cone of uncertainty”. When there is a storm in the Gulf check in at least every 8 hours. In 8 hours the category (how dangerous the storm is) and the hit zone can change dramatically. I personally set up alerts on my phone and Facebook so it is easier to check and I get an alert if anything changes.
+ Get supplies on the hurricane checklist early (see below for a list of what to have at hand) - have these supplies a MINIMUM of 72 hours before the storm hits. I keep my supplies on hand all hurricane season and then double check and get anything that is low at least 72 hours ahead. Stores will run out of supplies and those who wait are putting themselves and their family in danger! I have posted the link from FEMA below for a more complete list.
The most important things are lots of water (a minimum of a gallon of bottled water per person for 3 a minimum of days), a full tank of gas, food that does not need to be heated or refrigerated (remember the can opener) for you/your pets and children, cash (ATMs don’t work when there is no electricity) and medications. Even if you are here on vacation buying this stuff its not expensive and you can use it during your trip even if all ends up being OK. You may also want to get a flashlight and batteries and a battery operated radio.
If you live in Florida just have this stuff on hand at all times. You will also want a more complete list of supplies which can be found at: http://www.ready.gov/basic-disaster-supplies-kit
+ Know the hurricane evacuation zone you are in (if you are on the beach you will be in evacuation zone 1, the first one), the storm category rating, and the cone of uncertainty. Use this information to decide on your action plan. Do it early and follow it.
+ If you need to evacuate LEAVE EARLY – I cannot stress this enough. You do NOT want to be on the road when everyone else is evacuating since a 60 mile drive can take you 3 to 8 hours at this time. When you evacuate be sure to bring your hurricane supplies and have a full tank of gas before starting out. Stories of people being caught in a car on the highway in 100+ mile an hour wind are common and when the reach an "safe" area all the shelters and hotels were full (this happened to my family early on they went to bed and the hurricane was a category 2 not headed their way and the next morning it was predicted to be a 4 heading straight towards them and they had a last minute mandatory evacuation). Don't let it happen to you.
My Hurricane Plan as a Tampa Local with 20 years of experience living in a hurricane zone - I thought this may be helpful to tourists ...note that people who have been in Florida for a long time have gone through this so many times and some of us tend to get lazy about security and this is not necessary a good thing. Your first point of reference should be what the authorities are telling you.
Category 1 storm –
This is what I would tell tourists to do and go out and purchase: a full tank of gas, charge up everything (PC, phones, extra batteries etc), a minimum of 3 gallons of water per day per person, 3 days worth of foods that you don't need to heat or refrigerate, and figure the safest place to be where you are (a room with no windows and water pipes for extra protection..bathrooms are often great..tornadoes can be more dangerous than the hurricane especially if you are inland).
Everyone in a hurricane prone area should have the entire list of supplies on hand for the entire hurricane season. this can be found at http://www.ready.gov/basic-disaster-supplies-kit
I also have bleach and cleaning supplies on hand in case I need to clean up mud etc from the house or purify water. I remove everything from patios and yard (it can fly around and do damage to myself and others), and I know the safest place/room to be where you are (an interior room with no windows..this is often a bathroom or closet..remember tornadoes can be more dangerous than the hurricane especially if you are inland).
Have supplies and plan to be self sufficient and stay in your house for an entire week. After a storm roads may be flooded, electricity may be out and water water pressure could be bad or not safe to drink.
I also do chores around the house especially those that need water. I do laundry and wash any dirty dishes this way if I have enough clean dishes and laundry to last me for awhile. I take out the garbage. I clean my safe room (who wants to be stuck in a dirty bathroom or closet for a day). I also clean the bath tub. If your tub is clean it is easy to fill for emergency water if conditions suddenly get worse. This way you have water for washing dishes, flushing toilets and drinking if necessary. These things are also things that need to be done regularly so just do them now and give yourself piece of mind.
Category 2 storm for a direct hit – Follow #1 plus board up the house if possible. Since I am in the first evacuation zone (A) I consider staying with a friend in a more secure location (within the Tampa Bay area). Note the storm surge (the flood) that happens with the storm is often more dangerous than the winds! Make sure friends and family know where I am Facebook and twitter are good for this. My family also has an emergency person. I call my parents and the rest of the family can call them and get updates.
Category 3 storm – Follow instructions given #1 and #2 and go to an alternate location. Consider flying out of Tampa or staying with friends out of town. At the very least move to evacuation zone C. Remember to bring hurricane supplies with you.
Category 4 or 5 – Follow instructions given1 & 2. Board up the house and leave town…for me this will most likely be via plane. At this point the roads throughout Florida are probably gridlocked unless you were smart and left real early. Call the airport; find a flight up north or west (Vegas, Philly, Toronto etc) and go. Make a vacation out of it. Note you CANNOT do this at the last minute! Airports close early due to winds and rain and flights get booked.
Finding out more information
Most news agencies get their information from here and I’ve found that this is the best resource for information
The best TV news channel in this area varies by cable provider but I would recommend starting with Channel 9 and searching from there.
Florida divided into various evacuation zones. These zones are based on the how close you are to the water and the risk of flooding which is a main concern (and cause of death) during hurricanes. The state/county may order mandatory evacuations based on these flood zones. Zone A is evacuated first, then B, then c. To find yours go to:
The Red Cross will open shelters for those who have no place to go. The Red Cross does an amazing job at manning and organizing these shelters but they are often in school gymnasiums and are crowded and noisy. My recommendation is to plan early, find a friend or a hotel in a safe area before using shelters. I would bring everything on your hurricane list plus an overnight bag with extra clothes and toiletries, sleeping bag or air mattress, blankets, pillows, shower shoes, comfortable clothing to sleep in (unless you want to be running around a gym full of people in your PJs), eye masks, ear plugs and games to pass the time. Remember the city will close roads and hard hit areas so you may be at the shelter awhile after the hurricane has left.
See the local news for shelter openings and additional instructions on what to bring. NOTE very few if any shelters allow animals so if you have pets you will need to make alternate arrangements for them.
Dear Dudes & Dudettes,
Like, Florida is one of the greatest places to visit & live on the planet. I've surfed in the water, run down the beaches, hiked thru the parks & walked on the grass throughout the whole state everyday of my entire life. I am so lucky. There are no sharks, gators, bugs, skin cancer or anything else that will hurt you if you live in the real world & get outside & enjoy it. If you stay inside reading the papers, you will become paranoid, fat & unhealthy, believing the lies the media is forcing down your throat so you'll stay tuned in to watch their advertisements so they can stay in business in a state where most people get out & play and dont have time for their garbage. The choice is yours- get out & live your life in one of the greatest & safest places on the planet, or cower in your condo eating lard chips being bullied by advertising firms until you die of a stroke. My 'warning' is of leading a sedentiary life & not getting out & using your body, which is meant for activity. Life is what you make it. The premise of needing to heed a warning is proliferated by the weak & propagated by the media to maximize their shareholder value. Get out & live in Florida! Later. Cowabungaaaaa......