DISCUSSION: As summer slowly approaches in the United States, so does beach season, particularly with Memorial Day around the corner. As temperatures increase, people living near the coast typically cool off by going to the beach and swimming in the ocean. However, those who swim need to be wary of potential dangerous rip currents. According to the U.S. Lifesaving Association (USLA), each year rip currents are involved in over 80% of the beach rescues performed by lifeguards.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association defines a rip current as the following: “A relatively small-scale surf-zone current moving away from the beach. Rip currents form as waves disperse along the beach causing water to become trapped between the beach and a sandbar or other underwater feature. The water converges into a narrow, river-like channel moving away from the shore at high speed.”
The easiest precautions one can take before entering the ocean are simply looking at any warning signs posted on the beach as well as only swimming when lifeguards are present. The USLA states that the chances of drowning at a beach with a lifeguard are one in 18 million. In addition, great weather does not always mean it is safe to swim, as rip currents can often form on calm, sunny days.
If you find yourself caught in a rip current, do not fight the current directly. Swim parallel with the shore, and once you are clear, only then swim back to land. More information about rip currents can be found here.
To learn more about weather preparedness and safety, be sure to visit the Global Weather and Climate Center!
©2017 Meteorologist Nicholas Quaglieri