The unofficial start to summer is here! And that means many folks are heading to the beaches. While there's plenty of fun in the sun to be had, things can get dangerous if you aren't careful.
This week is NOAA's Rip Current Awareness Week. Topics on their website, ripcurrents.noaa.gov, range from types of rip currents to how to escape safely if ever caught in one.
Rip currents are responsible for 80% of rescues in the surf environment. Annually, about 100 people die due to being caught in the rip currents, with most victims being in Florida, California, North Carolina, and South Carolina.
While this information is frightening, a lot can be done to prevent being a statistic.
First, it is important to know what a rip current is.
According to NOAA, a rip current is an area of deeper water where the waves aren't breaking. The image at the head of this article is an ideal depiction of what a rip current looks like.
It starts off as a wave breaking on the sandbar, then traveling to the beach, where it then runs off the beach into a channel. The longer the period between waves, the longer, faster and stronger the waves typically are. Generally, this is when rip currents can become more dangerous, when surf height is increasing.
Second, a rip current is the same as undertow, right?
False. The rip current can pull you away from the shore, not underwater. Either case can inflict panic upon the victim.
Third, how should you react?
DO NOT PANIC! It's easy to panic when caught in the rip current. The first instinct is to fight the current and swim back to shore, but that will leave you exhausted. This, in most cases, leads to drowning.
When in the rip current, you can swim parallel to the shoreline or at an angle towards the shoreline once the current weakens.
Experts say that know how to swim, have a floating device if you don't know how, not swim while intoxicated, and be aware of current warnings. You can find these warnings through local National Weather Service office websites and through the local media, wherever you may be staying.
Summer is a time for fun in the sun, and we can keep it that way by staying prepared and aware during our trips to the beaches.
For more information, visit ripcurrents.noaa.gov.
---Meteorologist Chris Michaels---
Facebook: Chris Michaels WCYB