With South Florida packed with visitors and experiencing a spike in drownings and near drownings, the Coast Guard Friday urged ocean swimmers to exercise extreme caution because of rip currents.
The forecast for the weekend will raise the risk of rip currents. Thunderstorms and temperatures in the high 80s are likely today, with Saturday and Sunday promising highs in the upper 70s and winds blowing at 15 to 18 mph.
A rip current is a powerful channel of water that flows quickly away from shore, caused by strong waves and winds. Rip currents often occur at low spots or breaks in the sandbar. Any object or person caught in a rip current can be pulled out into deeper seas.
The way to contend with a rip current is to swim parallel to the shore. Once swimmers are away from the force of the outgoing current, they should be able to swim back to the beach with less resistance. Even a strong swimmer can be exhausted by trying to go directly against the current.
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“Rip currents are a dangerous phenomenon that occurs on our South Florida beaches and I urge experienced swimmers and the general public to exercise caution when swimming at the beach,” said Capt. A. J. Gould, commander of Coast Guard Sector Miami. “Doing so could save your life, or the lives of your loved ones.”
The Coast Guard Rescue Center contact number to report a distress or rescue situation in South Florida is 305-535-4472, while VHF Channel 16 is the international distress frequency to report maritime emergencies.