TALLAHASSEE- -Florida Division of Emergency Management officials are once again urging beachgoers in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties to use caution today through Friday as a high risk of dangerous rip currents is expected. When red flags are flying beachgoers need to be aware that swimming in the Atlantic Ocean can be dangerous.
“Persistent strong onshore winds will cause an increased risk for rip currents along Florida’s Southeast Atlantic coast today through Friday,” State Meteorologist Amy Godsey said. “Area beach conditions will be very rough and we strongly urge beachgoers to check the rip current outlook and stay out of the water when red flags are posted.”
A rip current is a narrow, powerful current of water running perpendicular to the beach, out into the ocean. These currents may extend 200 to 2,500 feet (61 to 762 meters) lengthwise, but they are typically less than 30 feet (9 meters) wide. Rip currents can often move at more than 5 miles per hour (8 kilometers per hour) or faster.
In Florida, rip currents kill more people annually than thunderstorms, hurricanes and tornadoes combined. They are the number-one concern for beach lifeguards. According to the United States Lifesaving Association, 80 percent of surf beach rescues are attributed to rip currents.
Beachgoers should take the following precautionary and preparedness actions:
· Swim at guarded beaches and heed to the advice of beach patrol.
· If caught in the seaward pull of a rip current do not attempt to move directly toward shore. Instead move sideways across the rip currents until the pull eases.
· If a lifeguard is not available, have someone call 9-1-1.
· Throw the rip current victim something that floats: a lifejacket, a cooler or inflatable ball.
· Yell instructions on how to escape.
· Never go into the water alone, and if you aren’t a strong swimmer, stick to shallow waters (though shallow waters can also be dangerous for weak swimmers).
· Only swim in areas with a lifeguard or strong swimmers on the beach who can keep a safe eye on you.
Beachgoers who want to learn more about rip currents can visit www.ripcurrents.noaa.gov.