Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Rip current deaths 'shocking'

Rip current deaths along the Carolinas coast are a sad part of the annual vacation season, but the number of fatalities this month is really staggering.

By my count, there have been at least nine people killed on Carolinas beaches since July 3, and a 10th person is missing.  Dozens of rescues have been reported, and a number of people were hospitalized with serious complications from their time in the surf.

The deaths have ranged geographically from the beaches north of Wilmington down to near the South Carolina-Georgia border.

Interestingly, there have been no reports of rip currents deaths from the area where they are most dangerous -- the Outer Banks.

It's almost a cliche to say that people don't understand rip currents, but I'm most surprised at how many of the victims are Carolinas residents who should be more familiar with the risk.

One official of a small town along the Carolinas coast told me last week that "it's one thing to understand what to do in a rip current, but quite another when you're actually being dragged into deeper water."  I understand that point.  Fear and panic make us forget what we should know.

The high death toll this month caught the attention of Dr. Robert Brander, a professor at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.  He wrote me last week, saying he is a surf scientist who focuses on rip currents and has set up a safety program titled "The Science of the Surf."

"We have made great inroads educating people about rips here in Australia," Brander said, "but the drownings in the U.S. this year have been shocking."

Brander has assembled an interesting rip current website, and I recommend you take a look at it -- especially if you're planning a beach trip anytime soon (and don't forget that rip currents also take place in the Great Lakes).

While you're at it, you can participate in Brander's survey on rip current awareness. You'll find it here.


Anonymous said...

Sooo... what is one supposed to do if caught in a rip current?

Troznon the Luxdebor said...

Swim parallel to the shore until you are out of it.

Anonymous said...

Could a drone be used to scout out possible rip tides and then notify the lifeguards ?

Hawaiian Bob said...

What lifeguards? Many of the drownings occur on beaches that don't have them.

Trent Boblowoski said...

You see, the sharks prowl right outside the rip tide, so if you do manage to get out of it, there is a tooth-filled gauntlet to swim s well.

The life guards are too busy looking at boo-tay.

Anonymous said...

I read that there were 7 drownings in the Outer Banks during the 4th of July weekend.

Anonymous said...

At the OBX this week(July 2014)....and yesterday....four kids were pulled out of the same rip area....flags there....what a shame!
I see it ALL the time six year son is NOT allowed in the water above his knees without me...and I never go over my drown on Saturday here......sad again!