Summer Safety: Rip currents - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Summer Safety: Rip currents

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Everyone loves the beach, but there is something that everyone should be weary of -- rip currents. Every Savannahian and tourist should know how to spot them because they can be trouble.

People get caught in rip currents every year and most of the rescues on Tybee are related to rip currents. That's why it is important to take away the guess work when spotting a dangerous current from the shore.

Every year, thousands of people flock to Tybee just to get away, but it's important not to get swept away.

It only takes about a minute to drown, so it's important to be able to spot a rip current.

Tybee Ocean Rescue Captain Mike Taylor says rip currents usually pop up two hours before high tide.

"Our beach runs down about two miles, so we have very small rips. They rarely go out farther than 40 or 50 yard. After that point, if you do get carried out, you are able to swim parallel and kick yourself back in," said Taylor.

Rips are strong narrow currents that flow from the shoreline through the surf zone and off shore. They exist to take all the breaking water that is pilling up on the beach back out to sea. On some beaches, folks can see a channel of smooth water with hardly any waves in between choppy surf on either side. That's the rip.

A good vantage point is from the pier. Folks can look down on the water to see any kind of dangers. A lot of times, swimmers and surfers will take a look at the waters to see where the rips may be.

"There is a steady rip occurring in that spot and that is because the way the water has washed away the sand in that area and formed," said Taylor.

Since there are no safe zones posted at Tybee Island, the lifeguards take extra precautions to warn swimmers of the dangers.

"When we are going up and down the beach, we are looking for signs," said Taylor. "We are looking for sand getting kicked up on the bottom. We are looking for channels we would normally see at low tide. We are looking for light bubbling that may occur. These are different signs that aid us in finding rip currents and how to deal with them."

Not all rips are the same. The most common type is a fixed rip. It usually stays in the same place. Flash rips can occur anywhere there has been a large group of waves breaking. It pushes the rip out and then it disappears.

"We will know where they are going to be because of the cut out of the beach," said Taylor. "So we are able to get a handle on those and we see them occurring we can be pro-active. We have guards move people out of the water and educate them on what a rip is. What to look for and have them swim somewhere else."

It can be really scary getting caught in a rip and there are defiantly some do's and don't on how one should behave if they do find themselves caught in one:

1. The main thing is don't panic, because the rip wont take you under the water. All the rip will do is take you further out to sea and sometimes bring you back. Remember you have air in your lungs. You are buoyant, so don't panic.

2. If you aren't a good swimmer raise your hand for a lifesaver to come and get you.

3. Don't swim against a rip, swim parallel to shore.

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