With vacation season on the horizon, NOAA and partners are alerting beach-goers to the threat of rip currents and how to prevent drowning from their strong and potentially fatal grip.
The National Weather Service issues rip current outlooks for different coastal areas, called “surf zone forecasts,” so be sure to check out the rip current outlook before heading to the beach this summer.
Rip currents claim more than 100 lives per year nationally. For that reason, NOAA has teamed up with the United States Lifesaving Association and the National Park Service to sponsor this summer’s Rip Current Awareness Campaign, which starts June 5, with the theme Break the Grip of the Rip®.
According to the United States Lifesaving Association, each year America’s beach lifeguards rescue more than 50,000 swimmers from rip currents and swimming at a guarded beach can greatly reduce the chance of drowning.
Rip currents are narrow channels of water moving swiftly away from the shore, and they can pull people far out into the ocean. Rip currents are surprisingly strong. They occur just above the ocean floor and can knock people off their feet. Rip currents often occur with strong onshore winds, in cuts or breaks of a sandbar along the edge of the breaking waves, and near man-made objects such as piers or jetties. But they can occur anywhere there are breaking waves including the Great Lakes.
Rip Current Safety Tips
Before you go:
Check surf zone forecasts
Study how rip currents work and how to escape them.
Swim at a beach with lifeguard protection and talk with the lifeguard about the safest places to swim.
Observe and obey signs and flags posted to warn about rip currents.
Never swim near jetties, piers, or groins where there are fixed rip currents.
Don’t swim in a large body of water that is subject to changing wind, waves and currents unless you are a strong swimmer.
Swim with a buddy, never alone.
Rip currents are strongest at low tide.
If you get caught in the grip of a rip current:
Yell for help immediately.
Don’t swim against a rip current – it will just tire you out.
Escape the rip current by swimming parallel to the beach until you are free.
If you are unable to swim out of the rip current, float or calmly tread water.
When out of the current, swim toward the shore.