Staying safe in rip currents

Step by step on how to get out of a rip current.

WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA9) - Many summer weekend plans will include one last trip to the beach; however, this year rip currents could make the Atlantic Ocean dangerous, even for the strongest swimmers. In fact, the U.S. Lifesaving Association says rip currents are the reason for almost 80% of all rescues. 

How does a rip current form?

In short, rip currents are caused by waves pushing a large amount of water up onto shore above sea level. Gravity will pull the water back down to sea level in the fastest way possible (imagine pulling the drain in a filled tub). This is usually an area of an underwater trough or a sand bar break. This strong, concentrated rush out to sea will become the rip current and take even the strongest swimmers offshore.      

What to do when caught in a rip current:

  1. Don’t panic, do not attempt to swim back to shore as you will only fatigue.
  2. Swim parallel to the beach until you are out of the current.
  3. Float calmly with the current, then when it subsides, swim diagonally back to shore.


     

How to spot a rip current:

  1. Check for a change in water color.
  2. Watch for ocean sediments or seaweed channeling in one area or direction.
  3. Look for a choppy surface that extends beyond the breaker zone.


Use the WUSA9 app to get the latest developments on any tropical developments. 

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