PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — For the most part, Hurricane Zeta spared Northwest Florida, but it’s what’s coming after the storm that has authorities on Pensacola beach worried.
Water Safety Chief for Escambia County Public Safety Dave Greenwood says, “I mean anytime we have a low-pressure system… An organized low-pressure system or whereas it is a tropical storm or a low-pressure system in the Gulf of Mexico- it will pick up surf and with surf it will pick up rip currents.”
NOAA estimates 100 people die each year because of them. Also known as “the drowning machine,” the current doesn’t pull you under the water but farther out from shore. Even the most experienced swimmers can’t beat them.
“Unfortunately, with rip currents they look like an area of calm water bounded by surf on each side,” says Greenwood. “The reason it’s calm, is the surf isn’t breaking and the water is deeper and that water is flowing away from shore.”
So, if you do find yourself in one…
“Don’t panic float. You want to go horizontal and you want to swim out of the current and don’t try and swim directly back to shore. If you swim parallel to the shore or along the shore you can get out of the current,” says Greenwood.
Pensacola beach is still allowing surfers to enjoy the waves and has life guards patrolling non-stop and even though it may look like Zeta has left the panhandle… make sure you take an extra second to think before getting in the water.
“Just because the storm has passed and we didn’t feel an impact of the storm directly here in Pensacola as they did in New Orleans or other places like Biloxi we still have the potential for rip currents,” Greenwood adds.
For more information about rip currents and what to do, click here.