By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
CAROLINA BEACH & KURE BEACH, NC - Labor Day weekend is the typically the end of the summer season on Pleasure Island. The Town's of Carolina Beach and Kure Beach both have lifeguard programs that run from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
According to the Town of Carolina Beach Ocean Rescue, "Beachgoers are urged to use caution as the Carolina Beach Ocean Rescue season comes to a close. The lifeguard season runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Beach patrons should take precautions by reading the safety signage posted at our beach access areas. Rescue officials recommend you monitor weather and surf conditions prior to swimming, and you should never swim alone."
Hurricane season runs from June 1st to November 30th, and weather conditions can create unsafe swimming conditions along area beaches.
For example, on May 31st, 2014 Terrance Christopher Miller was seen swimming just offshore in Carolina Beach when he went under the water and never resurfaced.
Rip currents are powerful, channeled currents of water flowing away from shore. They typically extend from the shoreline, through the surf zone, and past the line of breaking waves. Rip currents can occur at any beach with breaking waves.
Lifeguards on Pleasure Island use flags to alert beachgoers to rip currents. Yellow means moderate hazard. Red means High Hazard and a red flag showing an icon of a circle and swimmer with a line through it means "Water closed to public."
Why Rip Currents Form
As waves travel from deep to shallow water, they will break near the shoreline. When waves break strongly in some locations and weakly in others, this can cause circulation cells which are seen as
rip currents: narrow, fast-moving belts of water traveling offshore.
Why Rip Currents are Dangerous:
Rip currents are the leading surf hazard for all beachgoers. They are particularly dangerous for weak or non-swimmers. Rip current speeds are typically 1-2 feet per second. However, speeds as high as 8 feet per second have been measured--this is faster than an Olympic swimmer can sprint! Thus, rip currents can sweep even the strongest swimmer out to sea.
Over 100 drownings due to rip currents occur every year in the United States. More than 80% of water rescues on surf beaches are due to rip currents.
When Rip Currents Form
Under certain wave, tide, and beach profile conditions the speeds can quickly increase to become dangerous to anyone entering the surf. The strength and speed of a rip current will likely increase as wave height and wave period increase. They are most likely to be dangerous during high surf conditions as the wave height and wave period increase.
Rip currents most typically form at low spots or breaks in sandbars, and also near structures such as groins, jetties and piers. Rip currents can be very narrow or extend in widths to hundreds of yards.
The seaward pull of rip currents varies: sometimes the rip current ends just beyond the line of breaking waves, but sometimes rip currents continue to push hundreds of yards offshore.
How to Identify Rip Currents
Look for any of these clues:
• a channel of churning, choppy water
• an area having a notable difference in water color
• a line of foam, seaweed, or debris moving steadily seaward
• a break in the incoming wave pattern
None, one, or more of the above clues may indicate the presence of rip currents. Rip currents are often not readily or easily identifiable to the average beachgoer.
How to Avoid and Survive Rip Currents
• Never swim alone.
• Be cautious at all times, especially when swimming at unguarded beaches. If in doubt, don’t go out!
• Whenever possible, swim at a lifeguard protected beach.
• Obey all instructions and orders from lifeguards.
• If caught in a rip current, remain calm to conserve energy and think clearly.
• Don’t fight the current. Swim out of the current in a direction following the shoreline. When out of the current, swim towards shore.
• If you are unable to swim out of the rip current, float or calmly tread water. When out of the current, swim towards shore.
• If you are still unable to reach shore, draw attention to yourself: face the shore, wave your arms, and yell for help.
• If you see someone in trouble, get help from a lifeguard. If a lifeguard is not available, have someone call 9-1-1 .
Throw the rip current victim something that floats and yell instructions on how to escape. Remember, many people drown while trying to save someone else from a rip current.
Learn more about Rip Currents at http://www.ripcurrents.noaa.gov