Water Rescues Up Over Busy Weekend

Water Rescues Up Over Busy Weekend Featured

By / Local News / Wednesday, 03 June 2015 04:00

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

PLEASURE ISLAND - Lifeguard patrols in New Hanover County were busy over the weekend working to keep people safe during their visit the beach. Carolina Beach reported 27 water rescues involving 48 victims. Kure Beach reported 33 water rescues with 61 victims.
Simon Sanders - head of the Carolina Beach Ocean Rescue said Tuesday was a slow day compared to the busy weekend. Tuesday afternoon he said no one had to enter the water for a rescue, but Friday, Saturday and Sunday were a different story.
He said weather conditions were right to cause rip currents at area beaches and that was the primary cause for the 27 rescues over the weekend.
Daniel Russel, head of the Kure Beach Ocean Rescue, sand his lifeguards performed 33 rescues with 61 victims. He said the majority were due to rip currents.
There had been reports in the media about a large number of Portuguese Man Of War washing ashore on Pleasure Island. Man Of War are not common jelly fish. They don't swim and are a colony of specialized minute individuals called zooids. These zooids are attached to each other and integrated. They are incapable of independent survival and drift with the currents and have a unique gas-filled air sac visible above the water with venomous tentacles reaching out 30 feet or more.
He said, "I've got a lot calls about that, but it's not really an issue. My guys are not reporting seeing a lot of them. It's mostly normal cabbage head jelly fish" and the number of those coming ashore is also not out of the ordinary.
Russel said they sighted a few Man of War earlier in the season and occasionally see the number washing ashore rise when the weather conditions are right such as following a tropical storm, but over the weekend the numbers were not out of the ordinary.
Simon Sanders said he heard stories about Man of War coming ashore over the weekend, but they were no stings reported Tuesday and there hasn't been an abnormal number of encounters. He echoed what Russel reported saying the most common item to watch out for are normal cabbage head jelly fish.
On May 31st, 2014 Terrance Christopher Miller was seen swimming just offshore in Carolina Beach when he went under the water and never resurfaced. Miller's body was never recovered.
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."
Kure Beach is starting "Ocean Safety Talk" every Monday throughout the summer where lifeguards explain how to spot and get out of a rip current as well as other important beach ordinances. Ocean Safety Talk will take place Monday's at 10AM at the ocean front park on Atlantic Avenue.
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.

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