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NOAA image of Rip Current Awareness sign.June 2, 2006 Alerting beachgoers to the threat of rip currents and how to escape their strong and potentially fatal grip is the focus of NOAA's national Rip Current Awareness Week, June 4-10, 2006. (Click NOAA image for larger view of Rip Current Awareness sign. Click here for high resolution version. Please credit “NOAA.”)

Rip currents are narrow channels of fast-moving water that pull swimmers out to sea. Panicked swimmers fail trying to counter the current by swimming straight back to shore—putting themselves at risk of drowning because of fatigue. Lifeguards rescue tens of thousands of people from rip currents in the U.S. every year, but it is estimated that 100 people are killed by rip currents annually.

"Checking the rip current forecast, swimming on guarded beaches and knowing how to escape a rip current's grip can be life-saving actions," said Brig. Gen. David L. Johnson, U.S. Air Force (Ret.), director of the NOAA National Weather Service. NOAA National Weather Service forecast offices that serve coastal areas issue outlooks, such as surf zone forecasts, that indicate when rip currents are a threat. These are available online, through the media and are broadcast over NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards.

Moving at speeds of up to eight feet per second, rip currents can move faster than an Olympic swimmer and can easily overpower its victim. Ian Crocker, four-time Olympic medalist for the U.S. swim team, holds the men's world record for completing the 100 meter butterfly in 50.40 seconds—a pace of nearly six feet per second. "A rip current is one competitor all swimmers should avoid challenging," said Crocker, who has joined NOAA in educating the public on rip currents through his participation in public service announcements.

Rip currents are prevalent along the East, Gulf, and West coasts in addition to the Great Lakes. Rip current education is critical to every swimmer and especially those who visit the beach infrequently and may be unfamiliar with this swimming hazard.

"No matter how often you swim or how good you swim, rip currents are a powerful force. If caught in a rip current, don't fight it! Swim parallel to the shore and swim back to land at an angle," said Spencer Rogers, coastal hazards specialist with NOAA's Sea Grant, in North Carolina. Sea Grant is NOAA's primary university-based program, located in each coastal state, to promote better understanding, conservation and use of America's coastal resources.

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.

Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners, 61 countries and the European Commission to develop a global network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.

Relevant Web Sites
NOAA Rip Currents: Break The Grip of The Rip!®

NOAA Sea Grant

Media Contact:
Chris Vaccaro, NOAA National Weather Service, (301) 713-0622 ext. 142