National Weather Service unveils new rip current model system

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Summer is almost here, and with it come trips to the beach. Rip currents are one of the biggest hazards facing beach-goers, claiming several lives in the state each year.

The National Weather Service has a brand new rip current modeling system they hope will help people make a more informed decision about swimming at the beach.

The model takes into account several factors such as wind speed and wave heights to rate the overall risk on a scale of zero to one hundred.

“It gives an hourly probabilistic rip current forecast out six days in time,” meteorologist Mark Willis said.

Willis feels the system should help to save lives. But if you still end up in a rip current this season, Willis says there are several important steps to take.

“If you happen to get caught in a rip current, you don’t wanna fight it,” Willis said. “You don’t wanna swim back towards the coast. You want to swim parallel to the shore until you’re out of that current, then come back to the beach.”

Although rip currents endanger the swimmer caught in the channel, Willis reminds beach-goers you shouldn’t swim out to try to help.

“Throw them a flotation device, where you’re safe, you have your feet on the ground,” Willis added. “Throw them something like a life jacket or a boogie board. Any kid of raft, anything like that. Try to keep yourself safe, because there’s actually a number of fatalities that occur every year from bystanders. Folks that go out and try to help somebody, and they get into trouble themselves.”

With the weather getting warmer, Willis feels it’s important to remember rip currents can still occur on sunny days.

“You can get a hurricane hundreds if not thousands of miles away that can produce waves locally,” Willis said. “Because it sends swells that can traverse the entire ocean and reach a beach that you may be at, and cause dangerous rip currents.”

Checking with the life guard ono duty can also be a good way to determine the rip current risk for the day, as they usually have a good idea of where they are happening.

Categories: Local, New Hanover

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