Knowing the dangers of rip currents

Orange Beach lifeguards post signs as part of their warning to swimmers
Orange Beach lifeguards post signs as part of their warning to swimmers(Hal Scheurich)
Published: May. 25, 2023 at 4:54 PM EDT
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(WHSV) - Memorial Day weekend is regarded as “the unofficial start to summer.” After Memorial Day, the number of people spending time at the beach starts to really increase. Rip currents are always something to be mindful of when you had to the beach and head out into the water, but they can be fatal if you get caught up in one.

Rip currents kill an average of 70 people a year, according to the weather death statistics from the National Weather Service.

Here is some general info on rip currents and what to do to avoid ending up in a dangerous situation in the ocean this summer:

Rip currents flow away from the shoreline meaning they can pull anyone away from shore into deep water. Rip currents generally extend from the shoreline all the way past breaking waves.

Rip currents have a direct relationship with waves. Waves break at different strengths in different locations on a beach. This can create a narrow circulation in the water that heads backward from the shoreline.

Rip currents can sweep you away even if you are the strongest of swimmers. Non-swimmers or weak swimmers certainly are more prone to the dangers of rip currents but some rip currents can travel faster than Olympic swimmers.

You can do a few things to help identify where a rip current may be. Look for a different shade in the water or pay attention to foam, seaweed, or debris heading out to sea. Still, rip currents can be very hard to identify.

The best thing you can do to avoid being trapped in rip currents is to avoid going into water during a high-risk day. The National Weather Service puts out statements for days of high rip current risks. Beaches will have flags posted on a moderate and high-risk rip current day.

Having a lifeguard on the beach is also beneficial. That way at least someone will at least be watching you to make sure you stay safe. Having someone with you in the ocean will also help you stay safe.

If you fear that you might be in a rip current, swim parallel to the shore. As mentioned before, rip currents can be extremely strong and defeat the best swimmers. Don’t go head-to-head with the current. Moving parallel to the shore will help you get out of the narrow current pulling you out to sea.

Current Day Forecast for all beaches:

Day 2-3 Forecast:


Rip Current example Oak Island Water Rescue
Rip Current example Oak Island Water Rescue(Oak Island Water Rescue)


rip current
rip current(WTVY)