|Posted by Anne Siren on September 14, 2012 at 1:50 PM|
Courtesy of Florida Fish and Wildlife
No matter how a rip current is formed, the effect is the same. A large amount of water at the shoreline rushes in a narrow path back to the sea. This path of water can extend as far as 3,000 feet offshore, reach 90 feet in width, and travel up to four feet per second.
Rip currents, sometimes incorrectly called undertows, do not pull swimmers under the water, but can pull even experienced swimmer away from shore. Rip currents can happen where
1. There is a break in an offshore sandbar,
2. The longshore current is diverted by a groin, pier, or jetty, or
3. Longshore currents moving in opposite directions meet.
Signs of a Rip Current
Stand on a high area, such as a sand dune or deck, and scan the water. To spot a rip current, look for the following characteristics:
A streak of water that is a different color. The streak may look more murky or darker than the surrounding water.
A gap in advancing breakers where the rip current is pushing its way seaward.
A line of foam extending offshore.
An offshore plume of turbid water past the sandbar.
If still unsure, throw a floating object into the water and see if it moves steadily seaward.
What to do?
DO NOT PANIC or try to swim against the current
Swim parallel to shore until you feel the current lessen and then swim to shore
If you can’t break out of the current, float with it until it dissipates, usually just beyond the breakers. Then swim diagonally to shore.
If you do not swim well, know your limits, stay in wading depths, and watch for sudden drop-offs.
Always swim in an area protected by certified lifeguards.
Used by Permission - Published courtesy of North Carolina Sea Grant, North Carolina State University, P.O. Box 8605, Raleigh, North Carolina 27695-8605, (919) 515-2454