2007-06-29 / Community

Educating Beachgoers About Riptides

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, and the National Parks Service have teamed up to educate beachgoers on how to "break the grip of the rip." Rip currents are dangerous and narrow channels of fast-moving water that pull swimmers away from the safety of shore and into open waters.

Many swimmers panic when caught in a rip tide, and fail to act properly when trying to counteract the tide's grip. This puts a swimmer at risk of drowning due to fatigue.

Rip currents account for more than 80 percent of lifeguard rescues every summer and an estimated 100 people are killed by rip currents annually.

"Before going into the water, check the rip current forecast, swim on guarded beaches, and know how to escape a rip current's grip," says retired Brigadier General David L. Johnson of the U.S. Air Force, who is the director of NOAA's National Weather Service. "Doing so may just save your life."

Swimmers should learn how to identify a rip current and assess the conditions of the surf before venturing out to swim. If you find yourself caught in a rip current, do not swim against it; rather, swim parallel to the shore, slowly working your way toward land at an angle, until you feel the grip of the tide release and find swimming to be an easier task.

If you swim directly against the tide, you risk great fatigue and possible drowning if you find yourself pulled too far away from shore. You should always swim at a beach where there is a lifeguard on duty to monitor the change of the currents, and to keep a safe eye on all swimmers.

Mary Bomar, director of the National Parks Service, states that "Every year, more than 75 million visitors come to swim, fish, snorkel, scuba-dive, boat, and enjoy the wildlife and majestic scenery in the coastal areas of our National Park System. The National Park Service has a long partnership with NOAA and its National Weather Service, to enhance our ability to provide visitors with the latest information on water safety."

For more information on rip currents or other NOAA programs, go to www. noaa.gov.

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