Breakdown: How to survive a dangerous rip current

Breakdown: Why rip currents are so dangerous

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Rip currents cause around 150 deaths per year in the United States. In the state of Florida, the currents kill more people annually than thunderstorms, hurricanes and tornadoes combined!

According to beach lifeguards, about 80 percent of all beach rescues are related to rip currents. That is why if you have plans to head to the beach, you need to know about rip currents.

A rip current is a narrow, but powerful current of running water, usually moving away from the beach and into the open ocean. Currents can extend 200 to 2,500 feet lengthwise but usually are never more than 30 feet wide. The current can move swiftly, around 5 mph or even faster.

Rip currents are caused by the shape of the shoreline and can spring up suddenly and unexpected. One minute you can be swimming in calm water the next you can be pulled swiftly out to sea at top speed.

Rip currents can occur in any form of weather, from sunny days to rainy ones and can form along any beach or ocean. Rip currents are usually occur in calm waters, not violently crashing waves.

Rip currents usually form when water builds up along the ocean, the excess of water builds up and then rushes through a low point on a sand bar. Thus, causing the rapid movement of water away from the beach.

Due to the water continuing to move into the basin between sand bar and the beach, the rip current usually lasts for several minutes or hours. Some are brief occurrences, but others last several days to months.

The best way to escape a rip current is to swim parallel to the beach. Meaning to the side to get out of the strongest part of the current and into more stable waters.

Rip Current
Rip Current (Source: WMC Action News 5)

If it is too strong of a rip current, the best thing to do is let the water carry you out to sea and through the narrow channel to calmer ocean water on the other side of the sand bar. Then you can swim around the current and back to the shore.

Drowning usually occurs when people try to swim in a rip current, exhaustion can occur, and people drown due to the force of water against them swimming into the current. That is not advised.

Keep calm, conserving energy in a rip current, also staying in shallow waters and swimming with a friend. Those are some ways to stay safe at the ocean.

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