Use Caution at the Beach this Weekend

By: Florida Division of Emergency Management Release Email
By: Florida Division of Emergency Management Release Email

Tallahassee, FL - September 13, 2012

The Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) reminds residents and visitors to use caution when visiting the beach as a moderate to high risk of rip currents is expected through this weekend along the entire Atlantic coast and the Florida Panhandle coast from Franklin County westward. An extended period of onshore winds and ocean swells will combine to produce hazardous surf conditions on the beaches. It is important to remember that when red flags are flying, beachgoers should remain alert while visiting these beaches.

“Wind and ocean factors can create rough surf and dangerous rip currents along Florida’s Atlantic and Gulf coasts,” said State Meteorologist Amy Godsey. “Rip currents are life threatening to anyone entering the water and beachgoers should remember to review the rip current outlook for their area, check the warning flag signs before entering the water and swim within sight of a lifeguard.”

Transit through bays and inlets may also be hazardous for mariners with small boats, especially during times of outgoing tides. A Small Craft Advisory is in effect along Florida’s Northeast and Southeast Coasts, as well as the coastal waters off the eastern Florida Panhandle.

It is important to remember that when red flags are flying, beachgoers should remain alert while visiting Florida’s beaches. A rip current is a narrow, powerful current of water that runs perpendicular to the beach, out into the ocean. These currents may extend 200 to 2,500 feet (61 to 762 meters) in length, but are typically less than 30 feet (9 meters) wide. Rip currents can often move at more than 5 miles per hour (8 kilometers per hour) and are not always identifiable to the average beachgoer.

When at the beach:

Before you leave for the beach, check the latest National Weather Service forecast for local beach conditions. Many offices issue a Surf Zone Forecast.
Obey all instructions and orders from lifeguards. Lifeguards are trained to identify hazards.
Know the meaning of and obey warnings represented by colored beach flags.
Different beaches may use different colors but a commonly used series include:
Double Red: Beach is closed to the public
Single Red: high hazard, e.g., strong surf or currents
Yellow: medium hazard
Green: Calm conditions although caution is still necessary
Purple: Flown with either Red or Yellow: Dangerous marine life
Stay at least 100 feet away from piers and jetties. Permanent rip currents often exist alongside these structures.
Pay especially close attention to children and persons who are elderly when at the beach. Even in shallow water, wave action can cause loss of footing.
Be cautious. Always assume rip currents are present even if you don’t see them.
If caught in a rip current:

DON’T PANIC. Remain calm to conserve energy and think clearly.
NEVER swim against the rip. Stay afloat and signal for help.
Swim out of the current in a direction following the shoreline. When out of the current, swim at an angle--away from the current--towards shore.
If you are unable to swim out of the rip current, float or calmly tread water.
Draw attention to yourself: face the shore, wave your arms, and yell for help.
If you see someone in trouble, don't become a victim too:

Get help from a lifeguard or, if one is unavailable, have someone call 9-1-1.
Throw the rip current victim something that floats--a lifejacket, a cooler, an inflatable ball.
Yell instructions on how to escape.
Follow safe boating practices:

Have a VHF Marine Band Radio and NOAA Weather Radio on board.
Check the marine forecast well ahead of time.
Know the limitations of your boat. If small craft advisories or gale warnings are issued, you should postpone travel.
Be sure everyone aboard is wearing a life jacket.
File a float plan at your marina.
Thunderstorms and weather-related hazards form quickly. Never let these storms cut off your route back to land.
The Atlantic Hurricane Season runs from June 1 – November 30. Visit www.FloridaDisaster.org to Get A Plan! For the latest information on the 2012 Hurricane Season, follow FDEM on Twitter at @FLSERT, on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/FloridaSERT and on Google+ at FLSERT.


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