May 25, 2022

Rip Currents: What You Need to Know for a Trip to the Beach

Mary Apel

The National Weather Service wants to take a moment to remind us how to spot, avoid, and survive a rip tide if we go to the beach this year.

Rip currents can travel as fast as 8 feet per second – faster than an Olympic swimmer. A rip current is dangerous, therefore, because it can sweep even the strongest swimmers out to sea.

What is a Rip Current?

A rip current is a powerful, narrow channel of water flowing away from the beach. Rip currents typically extend from near the shoreline out through the breaker zone where breaking waves form. Rip currents can and do occur on clear, sunny days.

Rip currents are the number one weather-related killer at the beaches along the northern Gulf Coast, according to the NWS. There have been a staggering 191 rip current fatalities since 2002 in the beaches covered by the National Weather Service Offices in Tallahassee, FL and Mobile, AL. That is more than the fatalities of flooding, tornadoes, lightning, and tropical storms combined.

How can I spot a Rip Current?

*Look at the water texture, color, and movement.
*Rip currents are often found in areas where waves are NOT breaking. The flat water located between breaking waves is the rip current flowing away from the beach out to sea.

What can I do if I get caught in a Rip Current?

* First and foremost, do not panic.
* Relax & float to conserve energy.
* If you know yourself to be a strong swimmer, swim PARALLEL TO SHORE until you clear the pull of the rip current.
* If not, FLIP on your back & FLOAT.
* WAVE & YELL to get the lifeguard’s attention.


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