Following Monday's decision by the city of Gulf Shores to close its public beaches in the wake of four drownings in less than a day, we wanted to know more about rip currents and how to survive if a swimmer finds themselves in one.
To understand how to survive a rip current, it's important to know what they are.
As waves travel from deep to shallow water, they break near the shoreline. However, when waves break strongly in some places and weaker in other places, it can cause a circulation under the water that are fast-moving belts traveling offshore.
How fast are those belts of water moving? Typically, around 1 to 2 feet per second but they can move as fast as 8 feet per second. That's faster than an Olympic swimmer!
Rip currents can be silent killers and can appear even in waters that appear relatively calm. If it can move faster than an Olympic swimmer, it can certainly sweep a less skilled or weaker swimmer out to open waters where their chances of drowning greatly increase.
HOW DO YOU AVOID OR ESCAPE A RIP CURRENT?
Look for any of these clues:
None, one, or more of the above clues may indicate the presence of rip currents. Rip currents are often not readily or easily identifiable to the average beachgoer. For your safety, be aware of this major surf zone hazard. Polarized sunglasses make it easier to see the rip current clues provided above.
INFORMATION SOURCE: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
For more information visit : http://www.ripcurrents.noaa.gov/overview.shtml