TAMPA (WFLA) – The National Weather Service in Ruskin has issued a high risk for rip currents through Friday night in Pinellas, coastal Hillsborough, Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte and Lee counties.
Swells will increase over the coming days due to the developing tropical disturbance in the Gulf of Mexico. The disturbance will continue to move west away from Florida but waves will continue to propagate outward in all directions through Saturday.
Rip currents can be life-threatening if proper precaution and action are not taken. Swimmers should always swim near a lifeguard at the beach and ask for specific conditions when they arrive. Every beach is different but lifeguards are trained at spotting them.
If caught in a rip current, don’t panic or fight it. It will not drag you under, but merely pull you out to sea. You should call for help and swim parallel to the shoreline. You will quickly swim out of the rip current and be able to swim back to shore easily.
A rip current is a channel of water that flows out to sea. They form when waves are high and crashing along the shoreline. Instead of continuing to pile up on the beach, the water has to return to sea and does so in narrow channels that are sometimes hard to see.
When headed to the beach, look for breaks in the waves, or calmer areas along the surf and channels of muddy or sandy water. These areas may indicate the channels of water flowing back out to sea. Avoid areas where there are breaks in the sandbar and either side of piers or structures.
Rip currents are not all the same strength, but you should not try to fight them. According to NOAA, some may be weak but speeds as fast as 8 feet per second have been recorded. That’s faster than any Olympic swimmer.