Rip Tide Awareness Week runs from June 5-11, 2016. We want to share the following information about rip tides and currents with you from the NOAA site because there’s no substitute for knowledge. Know what to do if you or a family member ever encounters a rip current and you’ll be able to disengage from it to enjoy the rest of your vacation.
For families that are planning a trip to the beach this summer, it is important to realize the dangers of rip currents before swimming in the ocean. The majority of fatalities from rip currents each year are those visiting from other areas.
Rip currents are powerful currents of water moving away from shore and are the leading surf hazard for all beachgoers, especially for non-swimmers. According to the United States Lifesaving Association, 80 percent of surf beach rescues are a result of rip currents. In addition, more than 100 people die annually from drowning when they are unable to escape a rip current.
Rip currents form when waves break near the shoreline, piling up water between the breaking waves at the beach. One of the ways this water returns to sea is to form a rip current, a narrow jet of water that moves swiftly offshore, roughly perpendicular to the shoreline. Under most tide and sea conditions the speeds are relatively slow, however when wave, tide and beach conditions are right, the speeds can quickly increase to become dangerous to anyone entering the surf, even the most experienced swimmers. Rip currents can be very narrow or extend in widths to hundreds of yards. The seaward pull of rip currents varies from just beyond the line of breaking waves to hundreds of yards offshore.
Some of the clues you can use to identify rip currents include:
~ a channel of churning or choppy water,
~ an area having a notable difference in water color,
~ a line of foam, seaweed or debris moving steadily seaward,
~ or a break in the incoming wave pattern.
These clues may or may not indicate the presence of rip currents. Rip currents are often not readily or easily identifiable to the average person. If you are concerned about the possibilities of rip currents occurring in the surf, it is best to ask an on-duty lifeguard before entering the water.
If you are caught in a rip current, remain calm to conserve energy and think clearly. Never fight against the current. Swim out of the current in a direction parallel to the shoreline. When out of the current, swim at an angle away from the current and toward the shore. If you are unable to swim out of the rip current, float or calmly tread water. When out of the current, swim toward shore. If you are unable to reach shore, draw attention to yourself by waving your arms and yelling for help.
If you see someone in trouble, don’t become a victim yourself. Many people drown each summer while trying to save someone else from a rip current. Get help from a lifeguard if one is available. If not, have someone call 9-1-1. Throw the rip current victim something that floats such as a life jacket, cooler or inflatable ball.
It is important to note that under any conditions rip currents can occur and beachgoers should know how to swim and to heed the advice of beach patrol before entering the surf. When areas of rip currents are marked with signs, respect the signage and avoid the area.