What to do if you get caught in a rip current

WASHINGTON (WUSA9) – The first tropical storm of the 2014 Atlantic Hurricane Season formed Tuesday, and could affect the Delmarva beaches on the Fourth of July.

Ahead of the holiday weekend, make sure you're educated on what to do if you find yourself in a rip current.

Rip currents are strong narrow currents moving away from shore and out past the breaking waves. According to the National Weather Service, rip currents can attain speeds reaching 8 feet per second, which is faster than an Olympic swimmer can sprint.

On average, more people die every year from rip currents than from shark attacks or lightning. Last month, a 17-year-old from Parkville and an 18-year-old from Montgomery County died in two separate incidents after being caught in rip currents in Ocean City, Maryland.

Just because the water looks ready for a swim, it doesn't mean there isn't danger ahead.

Look for the following signs:

  • A channel of churning, choppy water
  • An area with a noticeable difference in color
  • A line of foam, seaweed, or debris moving steadily out to sea
  • A break in the incoming wave pattern

If you get caught in one:

  • Stay calm, don't fight the current
  • Swim sideways out of the current and parallel to the shore, then at an angle back to the shore

If you can't escape it:

  • Float or calmly tread water. The rip current will eventually fade
  • Try to face the shore, wave your arms, and yell for help

If you see someone caught in a rip current, do not try to rescue them yourself. Instead:

  • Get a lifeguard or call 911
  • Yell instructions
  • Throw a life preserver or floatation device

Credit: http://oceantoday.noaa.gov/ripcurrent/


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