It’s the unofficial kick off to the summer season, and that means people will flock to the beaches! Don’t get caught by the dangers of rip currents this Memorial Day weekend.
Rip currents are relatively strong, narrow currents of water that flow outward from the beach through the surf zone into open waters. Rip currents can pose a hazard to swimmers, and can even be deadly. So far in 2017, the National Weather Service reports more than 30 surf zone fatalities have occurred.
Rip currents are naturally occurring, most common on ocean shores, but can also occur on lakes. Wind direction and speed, as well as ocean currents play a large role in rip current development.
As rips are quite common, it’s important to know what to look for before venturing into the water. Here are some tips from NOAA on rip current safety:
Know How to Swim BEFORE You Venture In: Swimming in a pool is NOT the same as swimming at a surf beach with crashing waves, winds, and dangerous currents. Changing ocean currents and winds can quickly exhaust your energy and strength. You should be a strong swimmer before you go into the ocean, Great Lakes, or Gulf of Mexico. Many swimming programs now offer lessons in how to escape a rip current. According to the USLA, learning how to swim is the best defense against drowning.
Know What the Warnings Flags Mean: Know what the warning flags mean. Read the beach safety signs at the entrance to the beach. Once on the beach, look for beach warning flags, often posted on or near a lifeguard’s stand. A green flag means water conditions are safe and other colors mean conditions are not safe. These flags are there to protect you. Please read and obey the posted beach signs and warning flags. Warning flags aren’t used in all areas and their meaning can vary from area to area. Check this link from U.S. Lifesaving Association for info on the beach you are visiting.
Being prepared before you go in the water is best, but if you find yourself in trouble in the water, here’s how to escape the grip of a rip current
How to Survive a Rip Current:
Don’t fight the current. It’s a natural treadmill that travels an average speed of 1-2 feet per second, but has been measured as fast as 8 feet per seconds faster than an Olympic swimmer.
Relax and float to conserve energy. Staying calm may save your life.
Do NOT try to swim directly into to shore. Swim along the shoreline until you escape the current’s pull. When free from the pull of the current, swim at an angle away from the current toward shore.
If you feel you can’t reach shore, relax, face the shore, and call or wave for help. Remember: If in doubt, don’t go out!