BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. - Rip currents are one of the deadliest weather-related dangers in Florida, and the level of danger can change dramatically depending on where you set up your beach chair.
Meteorologists watch weather patterns to find out when there's the strongest risk for rip currents, but other aspects, like the geography of the ocean floor, can also make a big difference in the strength of the rips.
"On any given day, and on any beach you go to, it could change and it could be different," said Brevard County Ocean Rescue Chief Jeff Scabarozi.
Lifeguards check for conditions that can cause rip currents in specific locations.
"The job of an ocean lifeguard is to get there early in the morning, check conditions, get in the water, check and see what the problem areas might be," Scabarozi said.
National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration meteorologists, on the other hand, provide risk forecasts for more general areas along the coastline.
"They're looking at wind, looking at the weather, looking at the swell potential and making the best educational guess off that type of information," Scabarozi said. "They're not in the situation of being actually on the beach, having hands on and looking at that given area."
Location can make a big difference. For example, last Memorial Day weekend there were 100 ocean rescues in Volusia County and only two in Brevard County.
Even when the weather is good and the overall risk of rip currents is low, lifeguards have learned that certain hot spots will still have rip currents.
"At different piers or rock structures, a lot of times there always is one, depending on current that's moving," Scabarozi said.
Rip currents can be deadly. On a Labor Day visit to Ormond Beach in 2011, the Kerr family learned firsthand how devastating they can be.
"Our 4-year-old got pulled out by a rip current," Lynn Kerr said.
Kerr said her husband, Richard, swam out to rescue the boy. The boy survived by clinging to his father until being rescued. The father, however, died.
The heartbreaking story serves as a reminder for everyone to watch out for rip currents.
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