Recent deaths prompt Coast Guard warning of rip currents to swimmers, vacationers

Southeastern Coast Guard News
ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – The deaths of two swimmers and the continued search by local authorities for two others who were caught in rip currents Sunday at Georgia and South Carolina beaches are prompting a Coast Guard reminder to the public to be aware of the dangers of rip currents, especially in the days following severe weather.

Rip currents are strong narrow currents moving away from shore which can drag swimmers away from the beach and lead to death by drowning when swimmers attempt to fight the current and become exhausted.

Coast Guard boat and aircrews assisted in searches for two teenagers and a 38-year-old man who were swept out in rip currents at Hunting Island State Park in Hunting Island, S.C., Sunday afternoon. Two bodies have been recovered and local authorities continue searching for the third person. In a separate incident Sunday afternoon, a teenager was caught in a rip current at St. Simon’s Island, Ga., and remains missing as well.

According to the United States Lifesaving Association, rip currents cause approximately 100 deaths annually in the U.S., more than all other natural hazards except heat and floods.

The following are tips for identifying, avoiding and escaping rip currents.

Identify – Look for changes in water color; water motion; incoming wave shape or breaking point compared to adjacent conditions; channels of churning or choppy water; lines of foam, seaweed or debris moving seaward

Avoid – Check the latest National Weather Service forecast for local beach conditions before heading out; learn to swim; learn to swim in surf; never swim alone; swim near a lifeguard; look for posted signs and warning flags indicating hazards; check with lifeguards before swimming and obey their instructions; always assume rip currents are present; if in doubt, don’t go out

Escape – Remain calm to conserve energy; don’t fight the current; swim across the current parallel to the shoreline; when out of the current, swim at an angle away from the current and toward shore; if you can’t escape, try to float or tread water until the current subsides then swim to shore; if you can’t reach shore, face the shore, wave your arms and yell for help to draw attention

Assist – Get help from a lifeguard or if one isn’t available, call 911; throw the victim something that floats – a life jacket, cooler, ball; yell instructions to escape; don’t become a victim trying to help someone else

For more information about rip currents, visit: http://www.ripcurrents.noaa.gov/index.shtml;

  Rip current warning

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