June 3 – June 9 2018 is Rip Current Awareness Week.
Being aware of rip currents is especially important for people who live in a beach city, or who frequently take trips to the beach. Georgians who regularly visit nearby Tybee Island should take note of any warnings from lifeguards in the area, take note of weather conditions, and know how to stay safe and avoid being swept away in a rip current should they find themselves in one.
According to the United States Lifesaving Association, 80 percent of surf beach rescues are attributed to rip currents. Moreover, more than 100 rip current deaths are due to people being swept away and drowning.
In May 2018, two people died after a man tried to save a woman and toddler from drowning off St. Simons Island near Massengale Park. According to witnesses, the man went underwater and did not resurface.
What is a Rip Current?
Rip currents commonly form along sandbars, where the shoreline is lower, or where there are breaks in the consistency of the shoreline. Sometimes structures in the water may add to the possibility that a rip current will form.
It is possible to see the signs of a rip current. A rip current occurs when choppy or churning water channels away from the shore. The color of the water is noticeably different, and it often is pulling debris, foam, or seaweed out to sea or breaks the oncoming wave pattern.
Rip currents can form along any beach every day. However, most of the time, they are weak and swimmers are not aware of the presence. The strength of the rip current depends on the height of the wave and when a wave appears. Rip currents can travel as fast as 5 mph or 8-feet per second. That is faster than what an Olympic swimmer can swim.
Rip Current Safety
Rip currents are dangerous for swimmers when their power pulls the swimmer away from the shore. Swimmers who are caught in a rip current often try to swim back toward shore, but they are actually swimming against the pull of the current. The swimmer remains caught and may tire in his or her attempt to get out to such an extent they can drown.
If you get caught in a rip current, it is suggested that you swim parallel to the shore until you reach the end of the current. Only then will you be able to swim back to shore. If you can’t swim, it is recommended that you float or tread water until you are free of the rip current, then swim to shore.
(Image Source: The American Red Cross)
More information about rip currents appear on the National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) website.
Stay safe this summer and be aware of the weather conditions before you choose to get into the water.