Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Coast Guard Warns Beachgoers of Life-Threatening Rip Currents as Hurricane Lee Passes

Hurricane Lee. (NOAA NWS National Hurricane Center Facebook page)

BALTIMORE — Coast Guard officials were urging beachgoers Wednesday to exercise extreme caution during and after the passage of Hurricane Lee due to the threat of dangerous beach conditions.

Strong rip currents and rough surf along the Mid-Atlantic coast are expected to make the water dangerous for even the strongest swimmers, and particularly for children and inexperienced swimmers, the Coast Guard said, warning even if surface weather clears and beach conditions look favorable this weekend, rip currents remain a grave danger to recreational beachgoers and boaters.

“Although Hurricane Lee is not expected to make landfall along the Mid-Atlantic coastal region, there will be dangerous conditions along our shores,” said Capt. Kate Higgins-Bloom, commander of Coast Guard Sector Delaware Bay. “Rip currents are a hidden threat to even the most experienced swimmers. With the increased number of tragedies following Tropical Storm Idalia over Labor Day weekend, we urge everyone to remain cautious. If you’re spending time at the shore over the next few days, keep yourself and loved ones safe by paying close attention to surf conditions and warning signs posted by local authorities.”

According to the Coast Guard, a rip current is a localized current that flows away from the shoreline toward the ocean. Rip currents move perpendicular to shore and can be very strong, and a person caught in a rip current can be swept away from shore very quickly.

The best way to escape a rip current is by swimming parallel to the shore instead of towards it, the Coast Guard said, since most rip currents are less than 80 feet wide. It added the most important thing to remember if caught in a rip current is not to panic, rather continue to breathe, try to keep your head above water, and don’t exhaust yourself.

The Coast Guard said any life-threating, on-water emergencies should be reported immediately on VHF radio channel 16, adding when using a VHF radio, the Coast Guard can determine a location to expedite sending help.

Maritime emergencies can also be reported to Coast Guard District 5 Command Center at 757-398-6390.

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