Coast Guard advises public to be aware of rip currents from Hurricane Sandy

Mid Atlantic Coast Guard News

PORTSMOUTH, Va. — Due to the forecast of Hurricane Sandy, the Coast Guard is warning the public of possible life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.

Swells from Sandy are expected to arrive in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States this weekend.

The Coast Guard urges beachgoers to be aware of the dangers of rip currents in their area.

Rip currents can drag swimmers away from the beach and lead to death by drowning when they attempt to fight the current and become exhausted. According to the United States Lifesaving Association, rip currents cause approximately 100 deaths annually in the United States, more than all other natural hazards except heat and floods.

“Swimmers and beach-goers are reminded to pay attention to local storm and surf warnings,” said Capt. William Cameron, the Incident Management Branch chief at the Coast Guard 5th District office in Portsmouth. “The storm may be well offshore, but it can still generate powerful rip currents. These currents can endanger even the best swimmers and can be dangerous even in shallow water.”

The following are some tips on how to avoid and survive rip currents:

* Never swim alone.

* Whenever possible, swim at a lifeguard-protected beach.

* Obey all instructions and orders from lifeguards.

* If caught in a rip current, remain calm to conserve energy.

* Don’t fight the current. Swim out of the current in a direction parallel to the shoreline. When out of the current, swim 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: face the shore, wave your arms and yell for help.

* If you see someone in trouble, get help from a lifeguard. If a lifeguard is not available, call 911. Throw the rip current victim something that floats and yell instructions on how to escape. Remember, many people drown while trying to save someone else from a rip current.

To view an informational video about rip current, please visit the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s site.

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