Coast Guard advises public to be aware of rip currents, high surf conditions

5th Coast Guard District NewsWILMINGTON, N.C. — With the offshore passage of Hurricane Katia, the National Weather Service has issued an advisory warning of possible life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.

The Coast Guard is urging mariners and beachgoers to be aware of the dangers of high surf and rip currents in their area.

North Carolina inlets are subject to high surf conditions. The strong currents and shallow water may result in breaking surf across inlets. This summer there have been seven boats capsized by breaking surf in N.C. inlets according to Coast Guard Sector North Carolina. Mariners are advised to assess inlet conditions prior to attempting a transit as the surf may create hazardous conditions that limit rescuers’ ability to assist victims.

High surf also creates rip currents that can drag swimmers away from the beach and lead to 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.

“It’s exciting to be on the beach and see the wave action,” said Cmdr. James Mitchell, response department head for Coast Guard Sector North Carolina. “But remember that there is a lot of power in those waves, especially with rip currents. Even going into the water waste deep, you could get knocked off your feet. Just be careful, be very careful because the water can definitely be unpredictable when storms are approaching the shore side.”

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

  • Never swim alone.
  • Be cautious at all times, especially when swimming at unguarded beaches. If in doubt, don’t go out!
  • 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 and think clearly.
  • Don’t fight the current. Swim out of the current in a direction following 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 towards shore.
  • If you are still unable to reach shore, draw attention to yourself; face the shore, wave your arms, and yell for help.

For more information on rip currents, please visit the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration website.

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