Breaking bad? Tourists get a rough start to the season with big bust, chilly weather (PHOTOS)

Jennie McKeon
Kevin Collins and his friends from Stephen F. Austin State College and University of Texas at Arlington chose Destin over Panama City for its cleanliness.

It wasn't just the time change that brought on the Monday Blues for the thousands of spring breakers packed into Destin.

This week's start of the spring break season brought cold, heavy winds and rain, but that didn't stop young tourists from walking barefoot down Scenic Hwy. 98.

"I thought it would be cold, but not this cold," said Oakleigh Burkett bundled in a pink jacket and shorts on the sidewalk in front of Whale’s Tail.

Burkett, a high school student from Memphis, and her group of friends were all walking along the strip with their arms folded tight against them trying to stay warm. The group still has a couple of days to work on their spring break goal — getting a tan, but until the weather is better, they'll stick to indoor activities.

"Shop 'till you drop," Burkett said with a smile.

On the beach, the older crowd has other ways to keep warm.

Sarah Schlishting, a senior at Texas Christian University, and her group of friends were not ready to turn off their rap music even as the sky got darker.

"We're never giving up," she said. "Spring break is the only freedom we get during second semester."

Schlishting has vacationed in Destin before, with her family and for previous spring breaks with friends.

"It's where everyone goes," she said. "It's a good place to go on vacation no matter the age."

Kevin Collins, a junior at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas, spent his past spring breaks in Panama City. He said he decided to come to Destin where it was cleaner and more laid back.

"Everything is so beautiful, so clean and everyone's so nice," Collins said.

He and his friends planned to stay in the sand until it downpours, then they might head back to their resort and hang out or go T.G.I. Friday's.

What most of the spring breakers seem unaware of, beyond the chill and dark clouds, is that they're being watched. Heavy patrolling started Sunday and officers such as Nick McMillian with the Walton County Sheriff’s Office are keeping a steady eye on the beach — and the party. On account of the weather, McMillian said it's been pretty slow.

"We haven't seen it as busy quite like in the past years," he said as his eyes darted around the boardwalk.

The pace picked up Monday evening at 5 p.m. as Walton County sheriff's deputies crashed a house party on Miami Street in Miramar Beach. Thirty-two men and women where taken to the jail for underage drinking. By 7:30 p.m., deputies were still removing cases of beer that were stacked on the back porch.

More than 200 breakers have been arrested so far in Walton County and officers will continue looking for "typical" nuisances such as underage drinking and people causing disturbances, said McMillian. In just the span of a couple of minutes, he stopped two girls to check their IDs.

"We'll be here 24/7 with extra manpower during the day," he said.

The arrests haven't slowed down yet according to Walton County Sheriff's Office:

Walton County deputies have been extremely busy over the past few days.  As Spring Break kicks into high gear, the numbers of calls and arrests have soared.  Starting on Friday and ending on Monday, the Walton County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) Communications Center answered approximately 1494 calls for service.  Last year’s numbers for the same weekend: 1773. Of the calls answered this past weekend, there have been 178 Notices to Appear issued for underage drinking.  Although the number of calls for service is down from last year, the deputies are working hard to keep law and order on South Walton beaches.  Last night, over 30 individuals were arrested and booked into the Walton County Department of Corrections for underage drinking at an open house party.  Underage drinking wasn’t the only thing these visitors to Walton County were doing: they trashed the rental home at 110 Miami Street. 

Also yesterday afternoon at 5 p.m., deputies were called to the area of Shipwatch Condos in Miramar Beach in reference to illegal parking.  Several vehicles were found blocking access of an entrance.  Upon arrival deputies discovered another house party.  Individuals carded were all of legal drinking age but that didn’t stop the property manager and homeowner from evicting the vacationers from the property.   The WCSO stood by while approximately 150 individuals were forced to leave.

Sheriff Adkinson is keeping his promise from the Operation Dry Spring press conference he held last week with Sheriff Ashley and Sheriff McKeithen.  The meeting with the media detailed what each of the Agencies represented are planning during Spring Break, especially with the occurrence of synthetic drugs and alcohol use.  During the press conference Adkinson stated, “We are going to be completely zero tolerant in dealing with this issue and completely proactive.”