Offshore Hurricanes Could Cause Dangerous Rip Currents

Life Gaurds
...risk of dangerous surf conditions along the East Coast

With two hurricanes in the Atlantic and a third storm system in the Gulf of Mexico, the American Red Cross has tips to help keep swimmers safe from dangerous rip currents when visiting the beach this weekend.

Hurricane Leslie and Hurricane Michael are traveling northward out in the Atlantic increasing the risk of dangerous surf conditions along the East Coast. Hurricane Leslie is expected to make its closest pass by New England on Monday or Tuesday of next week as waves build along the Atlantic this weekend. While these systems will remain far from land, even storms that don’t reach shore can cause strong rip currents along the beach posing dangers for swimmers. 

Rip currents are powerful, channeled currents of water flowing away from shore and can occur at any beach with breaking waves, including the Great Lakes. They are particularly dangerous for weak or non-swimmers, but rip currents have the potential to pull even the strongest swimmers out to sea under the right conditions.

Learn how to identify rip currents with Dr. Peter Wernicki of the Red Cross Science Advisory Council.

From Florida to New England, the Red Cross advises anyone taking a trip to the beach this weekend to swim on lifeguard-protected beaches if possible, within the designated swimming areas. Obey all instructions and orders from lifeguards. While enjoying the shore, keep alert and check the local weather conditions. The National Weather Service provides rip current forecasts. If a storm approaches, get out of the water and off the beach.

The United States Lifesaving Association estimates that the annual number of deaths due to rip currents on our nation's beaches exceeds 100. Rip currents account for more than 80 percent of rescues performed by beach lifeguards.

If caught in a rip current, remember the following:

  • Remain calm to conserve energy and think clearly.
  • Never fight against the current.
  • Swim out of the current in a direction following the shoreline. When out of the current, swim at an angle—away from the current—toward shore.
  • If you are unable to swim out of the rip current, float or calmly tread water. When out of the current, swim toward shore.
  • If you are still unable to reach shore, draw attention to yourself by waving your arm and yelling for help.
  • Stay at least 100 feet away from piers and jetties. Permanent rip currents often exist near these structures.
  • If you see someone in trouble, get help from a lifeguard. If a lifeguard is not available, have someone call 9-1-1. Throw the victim something that floats, such as a lifejacket, cooler or inflatable ball. Yell instructions on how to escape the current. Remember, many people drown while trying to save someone else from a rip current. 

    With two hurricanes churning out in the Atlantic, it is critically important to take safety precautions when swimming at the beach. For more information on how to keep you and your loved ones safe during your shore trip, visit www.redcross.org.

    About the American Red Cross:
    The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or cruzrojaamericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.

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