Rip currents are rapidly moving
currents that flow at right angles to the shoreline carrying water away
from the shore. Although they may be referred to as rip-tides, they are
not related to tides. From1989 to 2003, 265 fatalities attributed to rip
currents, were reported in Florida.
Florida is considered a trouble-spot for rip currents:
stretches of coastline are unprotected by lifeguards. Visitors to the
beach are often inexperienced swimmers or nonswimmers who are not
familiar with rip currents. Rip currents are strong and may even pull
able swimmers away from the shore. Children and the elderly are
especially vulnerable as are those who can’t swim, are poor swimmers, or
are unfamiliar with swimming in the ocean.
The formation of rip currents is often related to the
weather and some offices of the National Weather Service issue Rip
When strong winds blow toward the shore, waves are
formed that move large amounts of water toward the shore. One common way
that rip currents form is when water becomes trapped behind sand bars.
Sand bars are low natural ridges of sand that are formed under the
water. They lie parallel to the shore and close to it. At some point the
pressure of the water against the sand bar may cut a narrow channel
through it. The channel is usually no more than 20 yards wide
http://www.floridadisaster.org/hwa03/rip_current.htm and water
rushes back out to sea through it. That rapidly moving water is called a
rip current. Rip currents may also form at groins, jetties, piers, or
other man-made structures where water from waves or long shore currents
can be deflected out to sea by the structure.
There are clues that can help you identify a rip
current. Sometimes none of the clues are present. At other times one or
more may be seen. Polarized sun glasses make it easier to spot the clues
that indicate a rip current. Any of the following clues may help you
spot a rip current: a channel that is characterized by water that is
churning and choppy, an area of water that is notably different in color
than water near it, a line marked by foam, seaweed or debris that is
moving steadily out to sea or a break or interruption in the pattern of
incoming waves. Avoid swimming near piers, groins, or jetties as they
are often associated with rip currents. Pictures of rip currents may be
If you are caught in a rip current it is important to
stay calm and think clearly. Swimmers are advised not to fight the
current but to try to swim out of it by swimming parallel to the shore.
When you are out of the current it should be easy to swim back with the
surf. If you can’t swim out of the current, float and tread water until
you are out of the current. Then swim back to the shore. If you still
can’t reach the shore, turn toward the shore and draw attention to
yourself by waving your arms and yelling for help. If you spot someone
in trouble, get help from a lifeguard. If there aren’t lifeguards
available, have someone call 9-1-1. Throw the victim anything that
floats and yell instructions on how to escape. Always remember that many
people drown as they try to rescue someone else caught in a rip current.
Additional safety information may be found at: