“On days with high surf and potential for dangerous currents, a simple rule the National Weather Service stresses is to ‘stay dry when waves are high’,” says Matt Friedlein, lead forecaster with the National Weather Service in Chicago.
Rip currents alone account for an average of 60 死亡人数 annually
. 那 rose to 66
在 2020, and is already at
49 so far this year
, ahead of pace
There’s some recent good news for beachgoers on that front: Forecasters now have a model that can predict the probability of rip currents up to six days out.
仍然, some states and Puerto Rico are way ahead of pace regarding surf zone-related fatalities compared to previous years. Florida has 21, 从增加 16 in all of 2020. 德州, California and Puerto Rico have higher numbers than they had in all of 2020. 罗德岛, Oregon and Wisconsin are currently tied with their 2020 total numbers
威斯康星州? 是, you read that correctly. Just because Wisconsin does not sit along the ocean does not mean residents are risk-free.
Surf zone risks not limited to oceans
There is a common misconception that surf zone-related deaths only occur near oceans
. 在 2020, 曾经有 28 fatalities along the Great Lakes
, meaning nearly one third of the annual surf zone fatalities in
2020 were from the Great Lakes region
“Great Lakes waves tend to arrive at shore in closer succession than ocean waves, which can make it harder for a swimmer to recover if they are knocked down,” says Friedlein. “The shorelines also have many piers and break walls where strong currents can develop and surround, as well as gaps in sandbars that favor currents.”
, there are an average of
12 fatalities and
23 rescues on the Great Lakes due to dangerous currents
, according to the National Weather Service’s Great Lakes swim season summary database
“大体, the weather conditions most favorable for rip currents are onshore directed strong winds of 15+ mph sustained speed, and waves greater than 3 脚,” Friedlein explains. “Lake Michigan in particular has a long north-to-south orientation, which with stout northerly or northwesterly winds behind cold fronts can result in water piling up significantly along the Indiana and Michigan shores, creating favorable conditions for high surf and strong currents.”
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
(诺阿), rip currents typically reach speeds of 1 至 2 英尺/秒
. 然而, some rip currents have been measured at
8 英尺/秒 — faster than any Olympic swimmer ever recorded
. So even if you are an excellent swimmer
, you may be no match for a swift moving rip current
“通常, with rip currents people get caught off-guard,” says CNN meteorologist Rob Shackelford. “They find themselves being pulled away from shore quickly, panic sets in and they find they don’t know what to do to get back to shore safely.”
Friedlein says the key is to stay calm.
“Do not try to swim directly back to shore, as this will only cause fatigue and worsen the situation,” Friedlein cautions. “代替, a swimmer will want to swim to the side, or parallel to shore, to exit the channel of stronger flow that can often form in a gap in a sandbar. Once out of the current and not being pulled away from shore, the swimmer then should swim back to shore.”
There often are visual signs of a rip current that you can look out for. 例如, the rip current may appear darker than the surrounding water. Usually, you can look for areas where waves do not break, flanked by areas where the water is breaking. Knowing some of these warning signs can be lifesaving.
NOAA launches new forecast tool
NOAA has recently launched a national rip current forecast model in an effort to broaden awareness and implement life-saving alerts.
This new tool can predict the hourly probability of rip currents along US beaches up to six days out, allowing critical information to get out in a timely manner.
“Safety for beach-goers and boaters is taking a major leap forward with the launch of this new NOAA model
,” said Nicole LeBoeuf
, acting director of NOAA’s National Ocean Service
“Extending forecasting capabilities for dangerous rip currents out to six days provides forecasters and local authorities greater time to inform residents about the presence of this deadly beach hazard, thereby saving lives and protecting communities.”
If you find yourself headed to the beach
, don’t just check the forecast to see if it will rain
, but also if there is a threat for dangerous surf zone conditions