Rip current alert: How to stay safe this weekend along the Jersey Shore

    The National Weather Service has issued an alert about dangerous rip currents along the Jersey Shore. According to the United States Lifesaving Association, more than 100 people die per year from rip currents — two people died along the Jersey Shore this week alone — and 80 percent of all rescues are because of rip currents.

    A rip current is a channel of churning water moving from the shoreline out to sea. They form when waves break unevenly, strong in one area, and weak in others. This forms circulation cells and a column of fast moving water.

    Here’s how you can stay safe:

    1. Don’t swim at an unguarded beach.

    2. Never swim alone.

    3. Study the picture in this post. This is what a rip current looks like. See this? Don’t go in the water. Many rip currents are also a different color than the rest of the ocean.

    3. If you feel yourself caught in a rip current DO NOT STRUGGLE AGAINST THE CURRENT. Its pull is fast and strong — not even Michael Phelps could out-swim it. Either swim in the same direction as you’re being pulled, or float or tread water to let the current pull you out. Then either swim back to shore, or signal for a lifeguard to help you come back in. The Weather Channel suggests thinking of a rip current as a treadmill that you can’t turn off — your job is to ride to the end of the treadmill, then step to the side.

    I got caught in a rip current in North Carolina in September. It’s terrifying. My brain hit the panic button, and my first reaction was to struggle, which only made things worse. I could feel myself weakening. When I realized what was happening, I relaxed my body and floated until I was out of the current, then swam back in.

    It’s going to be a gorgeous weekend down the shore — just make sure to swim at those guarded beaches and to RELAX if you get caught in a rip current.

    On another note, is participating in Cape May’s Annual Harbor Fest, being held at the Nature Center of Cape May on Saturday from 10am to 2pm. I can’t go this year, but have been a speaker there before. It’s good fun, and it’ll be a great day for it.

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