Moderate to possibly high risk of rip currents today

    A sign in Cape May instructs swimmers caught in a rip current to swim parallel to the beach to escape. (Alan Tu/WHYY)

    A sign in Cape May instructs swimmers caught in a rip current to swim parallel to the beach to escape. (Alan Tu/WHYY)

    There is a moderate risk of rip currents today that could become high later in the day, forecasters say. 

    A moderate risk means that swimmers should expect stronger or more frequent rip currents and always have a flotation device and swim only in life guarded areas. A high risk means that surf conditions will likely generate life threatening rip currents. 

    “If southerly winds become stronger than currently forecast this afternoon or earlier than forecast, there is the possibility of a high risk for the formation of dangerous rip currents,” according to the National Weather Service. 

    The forecast calls for a low risk for tomorrow.

    Rip currents are powerful channels of water flowing quickly away from the shore, often occurring in low spots or breaks in the sandbar and in the vicinity of structures such as groins, jetties, and piers.

    According to NOAA, here’s how to identify a rip current: 

    A channel of churning, choppy water.
    An area having a notable difference in water color.
    A line of foam, seaweed, or debris moving steadily seaward.
    A break in the incoming wave pattern.

    Rip current speeds vary, with an average pull of 1-2 feet per second, but some can move as fast as 8 feet per second, which is faster than an Olympic swimmer, according to NOAA.

    Your first line of defense is to check the surf forecast before you head to the beach. NOAA updates the forecast daily. Watch this informative NOAA video on rip current safety.

    If caught in a rip current, NOAA advises:

    Stay calm.
    Don’t fight the current.
    Escape the current by swimming in a direction following the shoreline. When free of the current, swim at an angle—away from the current—toward shore.
    If you are unable to escape by swimming, float or tread water. When the current weakens, swim at an angle away from the current toward shore.
    If at any time you feel you will be unable to reach shore, draw attention to yourself: face the shore, call or wave for help.

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