CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – So far this year there have been 27 fatalities because of rip currents, with two of those occurring in South Carolina. While events, such as Isaias, enhance the threat of rip currents, they are something you should be aware of any time you hit the beach.
Rip currents are fast moving channels of water that pull away from shore. Usually the water moves at about 1-2 feet per second, but can be as fast as 8 feet per second. Plain and simple, a rip current has the potential to move faster than even Michael Phelps.
Rip currents are usually strongest at low tide, but can be especially strong as a tropical event approaches, like we saw with Isaias last week.
The best way to avoid encountering a rip current is to know what they look like.
Try to get a good view of the water from up high, say a sand dune, rather than directly on the beach. Wherever the waves aren’t breaking and you see foam, seaweed and other ocean objects pulled off shore is where the rip current is.
Always try to get a view of these yourself before hitting the water. It’s also a good idea to swim near a lifeguard and listen to any rip current warnings that are posted.
Now, if you do happen to find yourself stuck in a rip current, don’t panic. It will pull you out, but not under. Wave for help from a lifeguard. If you’re a strong swimmer, swim parallel to shore until you are out of the current. Then, you can swim back to the shore.