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Rip Current Risk

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Posted at 9:46 AM, Jul 12, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-12 09:51:52-04

It's summertime, so that means it's beach time!  The beach is such a fun place to hang out but it is also a very dangerous place to hang out. 

Hurricane Chris is losing its grip on the east coast beaches but while the Cat 2 hurricane was spinning off the coast of the Carolinas, it wreaked havoc on area beaches, causing rip currents and high surf. Rip currents and high surf are just a couple of hazards you must be aware of when at the beach.

Different color flags flying at the beach is completely normal. Lifeguards hang them to bring to beachgoers' attention that there may be some dangers. Used worldwide, there is a flag warning system that helps to notify swimmers of any changes in conditions in the ocean and along the beach. Beachgoers need to be on "flag watch" when approaching the beach.

Like traffic lights, the flag system uses green, yellow and red colors. With that said, sometimes, other colors are introduced into the system at beaches in different areas of the country. Green means go, yellow means caution and red means stop.

Knowing what the different flags mean can save your life!

Green flag

When you locate a green flag along the beach, swimming or recreational conditions are considered ideal. It signals calm conditions and minimal hazards.

Yellow flag

If you see a yellow flag, it may mean that the waves are higher than usual or rip currents may be present, so you should take caution when approaching the water. Take extra precautions if you are not a strong swimmer if there is a yellow flag flying.

Red flag

A red flag signifies hazardous conditions which include strong surf or currents. Beachgoers are advised to stay out of the water.

Most people have heard about rip currents but shorebreak is a very dangerous ocean condition that happens when the ocean’s waves break directly on the shore. Both small and high waves can be equally as unpredictable and dangerous. They typically form when there is a rapid transition from deep to shallow water. The powerful waves can pick you up and thrust you headfirst into the beach, which can cause injuries to extremities and the cervical spine. Another reason a lifeguard might fly a red flag is to alert the presence of sharks. This particular red flag will have an outline of a shark on it.

Double red flag

The double red flag means the water is completely closed to the public because of very dangerous ocean conditions, like strong rip currents. Beachgoers should stay out of the water when these flags are visible due to life-threatening reasons, but also because they can be arrested when entering the beach if a double red flag is flying.

Purple flag

The purple flag indicates that marine wildlife may be present, such as jellyfish, stingrays and other dangerous fish. Beachgoers should keep an eye out for them.

Warning flags make it possible for beachgoers to know the conditions of the ocean and the beach. It is wise to always heed beach warning flags to avoid hazardous conditions.

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