MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCBD) – Officials have advised beachgoers to stay out of the water Wednesday as Hurricane Lee sends large waves and strong rip currents toward North America.
Storm Team 2 Meteorologist Josh Marthers says that while Lee’s closest approach will be 700 miles from Charleston County, the significant size of the storm will send swell energy toward the South Carolina coast.
Georgetown Emergency Management Division is calling for dangerous, life-threatening surf conditions for all levels of swimmers.
The National Weather Service (NWS) says distant hurricanes such as Lee can be deadly. NWS has issued a rip current statement for the Charleston, Georgetown, and coastal Colleton Counties.
“Beachgoers should not enter the ocean until conditions improve later this weekend,” NWS said.
Onshore winds will increase the chance for rip currents, particularly at piers and sandbars around low 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.