Rip Current Hazards in the Carolinas: Protect Yourself with These Tips

As summer is quickly approaching, many local residents and vacationers across the Carolinas have plans to enjoy the season by visiting North and South Carolina’s many beaches. Unfortunately, beachgoers can and do face a number of risks when it comes to enjoying the water along the coast, particularly when it comes to rip currents.

Rip currents are a serious concern in North and South Carolina. While that’s nothing new, you may have noticed that rip currents have been a particular focus in the news recently, sometimes with stories that have tragic outcomes. Unfortunately, the statistics show a clear picture of rip current risks in the Carolinas, where they are responsible for more deaths than any other weather phenomenon. According to the National Weather Service, North Carolina also ranked second in the country last year for the most rip current-related fatalities with 10 deaths through the end of August.

According to experts, rip currents in the region aren’t a new danger nor are they any more violent or aggressive than in previous years. However, most incidents and rescues involving beachgoers who experience injuries, drowning or near-drowning, or death as a result of rip currents tend to stem from a general lack of understanding about rip current dangers and how to avoid or get out of them.

Whether you have plans to enjoy local beaches in the days of summer this year or plan to hit any beach along the North or South Carolina coast at any time in future years, our legal team here at CR Legal Team wants to remind you about the importance of making safety a priority. Below, we discuss some important information and safety tips about rip currents:

  • What Are Rip Currents? Rip currents are strong but narrow channels of fast-moving water which flow away from the beach. They can develop at any beach that has breaking waves and can pose a threat to all swimmers when they form.
  • Heeding Warnings – Local governments and lifeguards go to great lengths to warn residents and tourists about potential hazards on local beaches, including rip currents. If you hear about warnings or red flag conditions, you should always follow recommendations. This may include avoiding certain areas of the coast, waiting for dangerous conditions to subside, or reconsidering your beach swimming and activities for a safer time. Nearly anyone can become a victim to rip currents, including even the strongest of swimmers, so always take any advisories and warnings to heart, no matter how strong of a swimmer you may think you are.
  • Precautionary Measures – Taking precautionary measures is one of the best ways to reduce your risks of being involved in a rip current incident or suffering any type of swimming or beach-related injury. This includes ensuring every member of your family has a strong command of swimming skills, supervising children when they are in or near the water, swimming at beaches with trained lifeguards on duty, and using floatation devices or water sports equipment like boogie boards that can help keep you afloat. Learning CPR may also be a smart precautionary decision, as it can provide you with the tools to provide immediate assistance in emergency situations before paramedics arrive. You should also check for any advisory warnings and ask on-duty lifeguards about rip currents and any other potential hazards where you intend to swim.
  • Rescues – Rip currents are dangerous to people outside of the water as well, especially when those people attempt to help or rescue another who may be stuck in a rip current. If you notice someone is struggling or in need of help, notify a lifeguard or call 911 as soon as possible. Throwing a floatation device to the individual is often advised over entering the water and attempting to help on your own, as you may also become trapped in the rip current.
  • Spotting Rip Currents – Rip currents can be difficult to spot, which is why it is always best to listen to lifeguards and weather or surf advisories. While not everyone may be able to spot a rip current, there are a few visual signs to look for. These include any visible gaps between the waves, which although appearing as if they are calmer water, can often be rip currents. You can also watch out for discolored water near the shore (as rip currents can drag sand and sediment), and certain areas where rip currents are common, such as along sand bars, piers, jetties, and anything that sticks out from the beach.
  • When You’re Caught in a Rip Current – If you find yourself stuck in a rip current, one of the first and most important things to do is remain calm. This may be easier said than done, but fighting a strong rip current dragging you away from shore can do more harm than good and can result in fatigue. Instead of fighting the rip current, you should move parallel to the shore until you have crossed the edge of the current, after which you can then make your way toward shore. If that isn’t possible, you should remain calm, float or tread water to conserve energy, and turn toward the beach to call for help.

Given the serious risks posed by rip currents and any swimming activity, safety should always be a priority. Unfortunately, our firm knows that even the most cautious swimmers can suffer harm when the negligence of others is involved. CR Legal Team is always available to help victims of preventable beach or swimming accidents understand their rights and whether they may have a potential personal injury case. To speak with a member of our team and learn more about our services, contact us today.