Tips to stay safe when dealing with rip currents

Warning signs to look out for while swimming

By Candace Campos - Meteorologist
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ORLANDO, Fla. - Florida is known for its sun and sand almost year round, but as you enjoy the the beaches, there are warning signs to look out for.

If red flags are flying, the threat for rip currents is high.

A rip current is a fast moving channel of water that pulls away from the coastline. It is caused by strong easterly winds. That strong onshore flow pushes waves against the beaches, causing an increased buildup of water. The only way water can escape is by quickly pulling back out into sea through narrow channels. Strong rip currents can move up to 8 feet per second.

Although the current is strong, some swimmers are known for not feeling the pull while in the water, and only realize it once they are pushed farther out to sea. 

Escaping rip current
If you do find yourself caught in a rip current, there are a few steps you should take to escape the pull.

First, do not panic. If you begin to get tired, turn on your back and float for a few seconds to rest your arms and legs.

Next, start swimming parallel to the coastline until you begin to feel the pull relax.

From there, start swimming back to shore in an angle. Many panicked swimmers try swimming straight back to shore. That causes them to swim against the current, which increases their risk of drowning due to fatigue.

Since 1989, rip currents and rough surf have claimed at least 135 lives in east Central Florida, according to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association. Ninety-four percent of victims were males.

Once you get to know the steps, swim safe and enjoy the great Florida coast.

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