MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) – Rip currents are the leading cause of weather-related deaths here on the Gulf Coast. But why? And how do rip currents develop?

Rip currents can happen at any time of the year: this is one of the main reasons why it is such a deadly phenomena, especially for inexperienced swimmers.

Rip currents form when winds flow perpendicular to the shoreline. For reference, if you are at Dauphin Island, Ala., a wind out of the south will create a rip current. The rip current will push away from the shore and push you further out into the water. Depending on how rough the surf is, the rip current can be very strong and even sink you under water.

This is why it is so important to remember these tips to escaping a rip current and to know what the different beach flags mean.

To escape a rip current, you need to swim parallel to the shoreline, or perpendicular to the rip current. By swimming parallel, you will be moving away from the rip current and likely towards calmer waters.

This is why the flag system is so important. Beach goers can know exactly how rough the surf is before they go to the beach or get close to the water. Here are the different flags:

One thing to always remember: Even when there is a green flag, rip currents CAN still form. Always exercise caution when you are in the Gulf waters. Also, make sure to always swim within view of a lifeguard, because you could call for safety. It is important to remain calm! It could save your life.