Understanding the danger of rip currents

Weather Safety

MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) – We’re talking about rip currents. It may surprise you but rip currents are our number one weather-related hazard since 1996 and it’s not even close. When you combine deaths from flooding, tornadoes, tropical, and lightning, they don’t even come close to equaling the 113 deaths from rip currents.

So, what is a rip current? It’s a narrow channel of water that is flowing against the waves. The way to spot a current is an area of minimal wave action against other waves. While it may not seem like much on this example from NOAA, a rip current can flow faster than an Olympic swimmer.

If caught in a current, don’t try to fight it as it will likely just tire you out. The best thing to do swim parallel to the shore. Once you break the current then you can swim back to shore. If that’s not an option, float and tread water while yelling for help as the current will eventually ease.

Most beaches have a flag system identifying what the risk for currents is. Check the flag before getting in the water and it’s always a good idea to swim near a lifeguard. It’s important to remember, even on days where the risk is low, there is always a chance for rip currents. Swimming in the Gulf is not the same as a pool.

Now, I’m not saying don’t get in the water if you have a beach trip planned this summer, just make sure you understand the risks and what to do if you get caught in a current.

Rip Current Safety Information Links:

National Weather Service in Mobile Rip Current Page: https://www.weather.gov/beach/mob

National Weather Service Rip Current Safety: https://www.weather.gov/safety/ripcurrent

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