Rip Current Awareness Week is being used to remind beach visitors that the ocean is as unpredictable as it is beautiful.


Rip Current Awareness Week is being used to remind beach visitors that the ocean is as unpredictable as it is beautiful.



“The ocean is beautiful but it can also be dangerous. It’s not your community swimming pool,” said Pine Knoll Shores Fire Department Chief Jason Baker.



The risk of rip currents is being highlighted through the annual Rip Current Awareness Week, which began Sunday and continues through June 8.



Baker said awareness is an important step in helping beach visitors understand the risk of rip currents.



They can happen at any time and overcome even the strongest of swimmers.



“Definitely, if you are not a confident swimmer or are not a frequent swimmer in the ocean, be extra cautious,” Baker said.



He suggests staying in water knee or thigh deep and keeping a boogie board or something that floats with you and not to swim alone.



The National Weather Service, one of the partners for Rip Current Awareness Week, has a rip current safety page online and has helped develop the Break the Rip of the Grip brochure and educational signs.



At North Topsail Beach, the town has Break the Grip of the Rip signs at many of its public beach accesses and is distributing copies of the brochure to local rental agencies so that visitors receive the information as they arrive for their stay at the beach.



What is a Rip Current?



Rip currents are channelized currents of water flowing away from shore at surf beaches. According to National Weather Service information, they typically form at breaks in sandbars and also near structures such as jetties and piers.



Rip currents don’t pull people under water. Rather, they pull you away from shore.



If caught in a rip current, do not fight the current but swim in a direction parallel to shore. Once out of the current, swim at an angle away from the current and toward shore.



If you can’t swim to escape the current, float or tread water until the current weakens and then swim at an angle toward shore.



Rip currents are not always visible but there are things you can watch for in the water that may indicate a rip current, such as a difference in water color and breaks in the incoming wave pattern, or channels of churning, choppy water.



If headed to the beach, there are ways to check on the rip current risk in the local area. The National Weather Service office in Newport, which has a forecast area that includes Onslow County, has a rip current forecast page on its website at erh.noaa.gov/mhx/. It would also include rip current threats as part of its beach hazards statement. The office also has a Facebook page.



At beaches where there are lifeguards, beach visitors can ask the lifeguards on duty about rip currents that may be present.



For more information about rip currents and safety tips to follow, go to ripcurrents.noaa.gov.