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BY GEORGE: Danger in a rip
Submitted by George Elliott on Sun, 04/07/2013 - 8:54am.
I don’t know how many people know this, but rip currents, on average, kill more people each year across the U.S. than tornadoes, floods, or hurricanes. Only heat waves rank higher than rip currents in the number of overall weather or ocean/lake-related phenomena. This said, as more and more people take to the water more often, and populations continue to grow along our shorelines, it’s good to know exactly what a rip current is and how to stay safe if you are caught in such.
Rip currents are channeled currents of water flowing away from shore. They typically extend from the shoreline, through the surf zone, and past the line of breaking waves. Rip currents can occur at any beach with breaking waves, including the Great Lakes.
Rip currents most typically form at low spots or breaks in sandbars, and also near structures such as groins, jetties and piers. Rip currents can be very narrow or extend in widths to hundreds of yards. The seaward pull of rip currents varies: sometimes the rip current ends just beyond the line of breaking waves, but more powerful rip currents continue to push hundreds of yards offshore.
Rip currents can cause emotional distress, panic, contusions/abrasions, internal/external injuries, suffocation and death due to drowning. The United States Lifesaving Association attributes 80 percent of all surf zone rescues to rip currents.
A daily rip current outlook is included in the Surf Zone Forecast, which is issued by many coastal National Weather Service offices. A three-tiered structure of "low", "moderate," or "high" is used to describe the rip current risk.
If caught in a rip current:
Don’t fight the current.
Escape the current by swimming in a direction following the shoreline. When free of the current, swim at an angle – away from the current – toward shore.
If you are unable to escape by swimming, float or tread water.
When the current weakens, swim at an angle away from the current toward shore.
If at any time you feel you will be unable to reach shore, draw attention to yourself: Face the shore, call or wave for help.
By: George Elliott