When I saw Rip Current awareness week (this week) come up on our editorial calendar, I thought, how important could this really be? The answer…very important. Whether an ocean or a great lake, rip currents are powerful and can be deadly. I live by a great lake, go swimming and boating and know absolutely nothing about surviving a rip current. Once I started researching this topic it became very real. The most obvious danger of rip currents is that it can pull you out to sea further than you can swim back to shore. Even when it doesn't pull its victims far out, many panic and drown.
Rip currents can be found on many surf beaches every day. Rip currents most typically form at low spots or breaks in sandbars, and also near structures such as groins, jetties and piers. The definition of rip current is: A powerful channel of water that flows away from the shore. They can be narrow or more than 50 yards wide.
Rip currents do not pull people under the water—they pull people away from shore. Drowning deaths occur when people pulled offshore are unable to keep themselves afloat and swim to shore.
The United States Lifesaving Association (USLA) estimates that rip currents account for over eighty percent of all beach rescues and over 100 deaths annually at our nation's beaches. Signs that a rip current is present are difficult for the average beachgoer to identify. Look for differences in the water color, water motion, incoming wave shape or breaking point compared to adjacent conditions.
So, what do you need to know before you go to the beach? The USLA offers some good tips and precautions that every swimmer should head or at least hear.
A rip current is a horizontal current. Rip currents do not pull people under the water—they pull people away from shore. Drowning deaths occur when people pulled offshore are unable to keep themselves afloat and swim to shore. This may be due to any combination of fear, panic, exhaustion, or lack of swimming skills.
Learn how to swim!
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