TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Division of Emergency Management reminds beachgoers to use caution this week as a high risk of rip currents is expected along the east, central, and southeast Atlantic coast due to wind and ocean conditions. Strong onshore winds, lingering ocean swells, and tidal effects will combine to bring a high rip current risk to the coastlines of Volusia County through Miami-Dade County today.
These same conditions will bring a moderate risk to the beaches of Northeast Florida and the western Florida Panhandle. It is important to remember that when red flags are flying, beachgoers should remain alert while visiting these beaches.
“Various wind and ocean factors may create rough surf and dangerous rip currents along Florida’s Atlantic and Gulf coasts,” said State Meteorologist Amy Godsey. “Rip currents can be life threatening to anyone entering the water and beachgoers should remember to review the rip current outlook for their area, check the warning flag signs before entering the water and when available, swim within sight of a lifeguard.”
A rip current is a narrow, powerful current of water that runs perpendicular to the beach, out into the ocean. These currents may extend 200 to 2,500 feet (61 to 762 meters) in length, but are typically less than 30 feet (9 meters) wide. Rip currents can often move at more than 5 miles per hour (8 kilometers per hour) and are not always identifiable to the average beachgoer.
When at the beach:
Before you leave for the beach, check the local National Weather Service forecast for local beach conditions. Many offices issue a Surf Zone Forecast.
Whenever possible, swim at a lifeguard-protected beach.
Obey all instructions and orders from lifeguards and local officials. Lifeguards are trained to identify hazards. Ask a lifeguard about the conditions before entering the water. This is part of their job.
Know the meaning of and obey warnings represented by colored beach flags.
Different beaches may use different colors but a commonly used series include:
Ø Double Red: Beach is closed to the public
Ø Single Red: high hazard, e.g., strong surf or currents
Ø Yellow: medium hazard
Ø Green: Calm conditions although caution is still necessary
Ø Purple: Flown with either Red or Yellow: Dangerous marine life
Learn how to swim in the surf. It’s not the same as swimming in a pool or lake. Never swim alone.
Stay at least 100 feet away from piers and jetties. Permanent rip currents often exist alongside these structures.
Pay especially close attention to children and persons who are elderly when at the beach. Even in shallow water, wave action can cause loss of footing.
Be cautious. Always assume rip currents are present even if you don’t see them.
If caught in a rip current:
DON’T PANIC. The rip won’t pull you under the water. It will just carry you seaward. Remain calm to conserve energy and think clearly.
NEVER swim against the rip. Stay afloat, go with the flow and signal for help.
Swim out of the current in a direction following the shoreline. When out of the current, swim at an angle–away from the current–towards shore.
Think of a rip current like a treadmill that cannot be turned off, which you need to step to the side of.
If you are unable to swim out of the rip current, float or calmly tread water. Rip current strength eventually subsides offshore. When it does, swim toward shore.
Draw attention to yourself: face the shore, wave your arms, and yell for help.
If you see someone in trouble, don’t become a victim too:
Get help from a lifeguard.
If a lifeguard is not available, have someone call 9-1-1.
Throw the rip current victim something that floats–a lifejacket, a cooler, an inflatable ball.
Yell instructions on how to escape.
Remember, many people drown while trying to save someone else from a rip current.
Beachgoers who want to learn more about rip currents can visit www.ripcurrents.noaa.gov. Boaters can go to www.srh.noaa.gov/wml to check the current marine conditions and updated forecasts. For more information on the Florida Division of Emergency Management and to GET A PLAN! visit www.FloridaDisaster.org. Follow us on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/FLSERT and on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/FloridaSERT.