As the start of summer fast approaches, many people will be beginning their summer vacations. Those vacations are likely to include many trips to the beach and coasts across the country. While enjoying the sand and the surf, it is important to keep in mind a few safety tips as summer kicks off!
The astronomical start of summer is June 21st however, beaches tend to open the last weekend of May. A common danger while at the beach is rip currents. A rip current is defined by the National Weather Service as a current of water that flows away from the shore at surf beaches. Rip currents are narrow and often perpendicular (90 degrees) to the shoreline. Rip currents extend from the shore line through the area between the high tide level on the beach and the seaward side of breaking waves. This area is known as the surf zone. When a wave breaks near the shore, the water piles up between the breaking waves and the shore.
Rip currents can be deadly if one does not know how to be prepared for them. A rip current can pull someone off shore and due to various factors like fear, exhaustion, panic, or lack of swimming skills they can cause a person to be unable to make their way back to shore. If the right wave and beach conditions are present, the speed of a rip current can become dangerous very quickly. Rip currents can be as narrow as 10 feet or as wide as 20 feet. If caught in a rip current, following some simple steps can help save your life. Officials recommend when caught in a rip current, to stay calm and don’t swim against the current. Swim out of the current and back to shore, but if you cannot escape float on your back or tread water. Call out for help by yelling and waving. Rip Currents won’t pull a person underneath the water. Remembering these tips can help make the water much safer.
Summer is a time to enjoy the nice weather and the water. Before you head out, check the National Weather Service beach forecast to see what conditions are like in your area. Make sure that you are heading to a swimming area that has posted lifeguard stations and lifeguards on duty. Try to swim with or travel to the beach with another person in case anything happens.
For more information on beach hazards and safety be sure to check out the National Weather Service page here
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© 2019 Meteorologist Shannon Scully