CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – If you are headed to the beach Tuesday you will want to be aware of a high risk for strong rip currents and large waves through the evening.
In fact, forecasters with the National Weather Service in Charleston say there is an enhanced risk of rip currents along the South Carolina coast for the next several days stemming from long period swells associated with Category 3 Hurricane Lee as the storm churns in the Atlantic.
“As the swell arrives, rip current risk goes all the way to the top of the scale,” said Storm Team 2 Meteorologist Josh Marthers. “Plus, we’re looking at 5-foot-plus breakers Thursday and Friday. You put that on there with that high risk of rip currents, the surf is going to be pretty hazardous for us as we head toward the end of the week.”
Marthers added that we could also see some issues with beach erosion due to the high breakers, especially during high tide.
If you find yourself caught in a rip current, do not panic.
- Swim along the shoreline – not directly into the shore.
- Once you are free of the current’s pull, swim at an angle away from the current toward the shore.
- If needed, tread water and wave or call for help.
WHAT ARE RIP CURRENTS?
Rip currents are fast-moving channels of water flowing away from the shore. They form when waves break near the shoreline, piling up water between the breaking waves and the beach.
“One of the ways this water returns to the sea is to form a rip current, a narrow stream of moving water,” according to NWS forecasters.
Usually, the water moves at about 1-2 feet per second, but can be as fast as 8 feet per second.
Officials with the National Weather Service say signs that a rip current is present are subtle and can be difficult for the average beachgoer to identify.
You can look for differences in water color, water motion, and incoming wave shape or breaking point when compared to nearby areas.
Some clues to look for:
- Channel of churning, choppy water
- Area having a notable difference in water color
- Line of foam, seaweed, or debris moving steadily seaward
- Break in the incoming wave pattern
If you find yourself in a rip current, remember to stay calm and try not to fight the current.
“Think like a treadmill you can’t turn off,” experts said. “You want to step to the side of it.”
Swim across the current in a direction following the shoreline. When you’re out of the current, swim and angle yourself away from the current and towards the shore.
If trouble persists, experts say you should attempt to float or calmly tread water. Rip current strength typically subsides offshore.