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Olympic Swimmer Joins National Effort to Educate Public

NOAA image of rip current on the Florida east coast following Hurricane Jeanne in September 2004.June 6, 2005 With millions of people converging on beaches this time of year, the NOAA National Weather Service is educating the public on a deadly water hazard during its inaugural Rip Current Awareness Week, June 5-11, 2005. Rip currents are channels of fast-moving water that can pull even seasoned swimmers away from shore. Panic and exhaustion can cause victims to drown. Rip currents kill an estimated 100 people each year. (Click NOAA image for larger view of rip current on the Florida east coast following Hurricane Jeanne in September 2004. Click here for high resolution version, which is a large file. Please credit “NOAA.”)

"Anyone who swims in the Atlantic or Pacific oceans, Gulf of Mexico or Great Lakes needs to know what a rip current is capable of and how to react if caught," said Brig. Gen. David L. Johnson, U.S. Air Force (Ret.), director of the NOAA National Weather Service. "Residents of land-locked states need to pay particular attention to this threat as they are more likely to be unfamiliar with rip currents and could be at greater risk when visiting the coast."

That was the case last November when Dawn Scurlock of Indiana lost her 19-year old son Joshua to a rip current near Cape Canaveral, Fla. "He loved the water, and he was a great swimmer," she said. "Unfortunately, living far from the ocean, he was never taught about rip currents."

Rushing at speeds of up to eight feet per second, rip currents can move faster than an Olympic swimmer and quickly overpower its victim.

Ian Crocker, four-time Olympic medalist for the U.S. Swimming Team, holds the men's world record for completing the 100 meter butterfly in 50.28 seconds—a pace of nearly six feet per second.

"A rip current is one competitor all swimmers should avoid challenging," said Crocker, who is helping NOAA educate the public on this danger through his participation in public service announcements.

To "Break the Grip of the Rip ™," those caught should swim in a direction following the shoreline until out of the current's reach, then swim at an angle toward shore. Swimmers are advised to remain in the view of a lifeguard and heed all warnings before entering and while in the water.

NOAA National Weather Service forecasters who serve coastal areas issue routine outlooks that indicate when rip currents are a threat. Such outlooks are available online and are broadcast over NOAA Weather Radio All-Hazards.

The NOAA National Weather Service is the primary source of weather data, forecasts and warnings for the United States and its territories. The NOAA National Weather Service operates the most advanced weather and flood warning and forecast system in the world, helping to protect lives and property and enhance the national economy.

NOAA, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of the nation's coastal and marine resources.

Relevant Web Sites
NOAA Rip Current Safety Information, Education Materials and Real Life Stories

NOAA National Weather Service

Media Contact:
Chris Vaccaro, NOAA National Weather Service, (301) 713-0622 ext. 134
(Photo courtesy of Dennis Decker, warning coordination meteorologist, NOAA National Weather Service forecast office in Melbourne, Fla.)