If taking a dip into the Atlantic is how you plan to cool off today, you’ll only make it in waist-high.
Stronger winds and higher surf have forced officials to raise red flags warnings at resort city beaches the last few days – rip currents being the main concern.
On Monday alone, Deputy Chief Tom Gill of Virginia Beach Lifesaving says,13 swimmers had to be rescued just in the resort area from 1st Street to 42nd Street.
Rip currents, he explains, are channels of water moving away from the shore that can pop up almost anywhere along sandy beaches.
Lately, they’ve also been popping up on the Outer Banks where red flag warnings marked beaches there yesterday.
Nags Head Ocean Rescue reported a dozen rescues. Kitty Hawk Ocean Rescue reported one in the morning before the flags went up.
Luckily, for Outer Banks beach-goers improving conditions today allowed most areas to take the flags down.
But, in Kitty Hawk, Captain Cole Yeatts says hazard warnings will replace them. His crew will also be out today teaching folks how to be “beach smart”.
According to officials, here are some things to keep in mind about rip currents: they pull harder during low tide and tend to be located in areas where the water appears more sandy and brown in color.
Gill’s crew in Virginia Beach will be monitoring the water on an hourly basis. In the meantime, he recommends you swim close to a lifeguard stand and obey today’s waist-high rule.
The NWS has posted the following information on their website regarding rip currents:
Learn how to swim!
When at the beach:
Whenever possible, swim at a lifeguard-protected beach.
Never swim alone.
Learn how to swim in the surf. It’s not the same as swimming in a pool or lake.
Be cautious at all times, especially when swimming at unguarded beaches. If in doubt, don’t go out.
Obey all instructions and orders from lifeguards. Lifeguards are trained to identify potential hazards. Ask a lifeguard about the conditions before entering the water. This is part of their job.
Stay at least 100 feet away from piers and jetties. Permanent rip currents often exist along side these structures.
Consider using polarized sunglasses when at the beach. They will help you to spot signatures of rip currents by cutting down glare and reflected sunlight off the ocean’s surface.
Pay especially close attention to children and elderly when at the beach. Even in shallow water, wave action can cause loss of footing.
If caught in a rip current:
Remain calm to conserve energy and think clearly.
Never fight against the current.
Think of it like a treadmill that cannot be turned off, which you need to step to the side of.
Swim out of the current in a direction following the shoreline. When out of the current, swim at an angle–away from the current–towards shore.
If you are unable to swim out of the rip current, float or calmly tread water. When out of the current, swim towards shore.
If you are still unable to reach shore, draw attention to yourself by waving your arm and yelling for help.
If you see someone in trouble, don’t become a victim too:
Get help from a lifeguard.
If a lifeguard is not available, have someone call 9-1-1.
Throw the rip current victim something that floats–a lifejacket, a cooler, an inflatable ball.
Yell instructions on how to escape.
Remember, many people drown while trying to save someone else from a rip current.
Note: Swimmers are advised to keep away from surfers in the water to avoid being run over, or injured. Swimmers are reminded to stay in designated areas and follow the instructions from the lifeguard on duty.