Rough surf prompts red flag warnings at Virginia and OBX beaches

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Red flags are up along beaches in Virginia and in the Outer Banks on Friday due to rough surf and the risk of dangerous rip currents.

Tom Gill, Chief of the Virginia Beach Lifesaving Service, says red flags are up at the Virginia Beach resort beaches, north end and Croatan.

City officials also say red flags are flying at Sandbridge.

Red flags are also flying at beaches in the Outer Banks, including all beaches in Currituck County, including Corolla, and Dare County beaches, including those in Duck, Kill Devil Hills and Nags Head.

Gill says they expect the red flags to be up on Saturday as well, the same day that 1,000 teams will be at the oceanfront for the North American sand soccer tournament.

"There's going to be a whole lot of people, they need to be very aware that as soon as the games are done and the kids want to go jump in the water and cool off, they have to be pretty careful about how they do that," he says.

Rip currents are channels of water moving away from the shore that can pop up almost anywhere along sandy beaches.

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.

The National Weather Service 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.