The risk for rip currents on our beaches in the Coastal Empire has been especially high with Hurricane Chris just off the east coast. On Tybee Island people who’ve witnessed and experienced rip currents shared their stories, like 17 year old Jordan Price. The Chatham County teen says he found himself in a rip current on Tybee Island just a few days ago. “I just kept my cool, ’cause I know, like, if I panicked that it would’ve even gotten worse.” said Price. He adds staying calm allowed him to remember to swim parallel to the shore to escape, for the second time in his life. the Wilmington Island teen shares why he didn’t recognize the rip current the second time he was caught in one. “I mean, you never really know, ’cause I, like, right when I went out in the water, so you don’t really know how the water’s gonna feel that day.” Price said.
Watching someone caught in a rip current can also be terrifying. Victoria Metts of Charleston recalls her young cousin’s encounter with the dangerous water condition. “She was about five years old and went out a little too far and the rip current got her, took her under, and we had to get her dad to go out and some lifeguards helped us, kinda pull her out, but it was definitely a scary moment for us.” Metts said. Self preservation was top of mind for 21 year old Ziggy Bryant of Charlotte when he saw a friend being pulled away from the shore by a rip current at Myrtle Beach. “First thing I was thinkin’ about was, Dang! If I go out there and try to help him, same thing might happen to both of us. We might just get taken out into the middle of the ocean.” said Bryant.
Both Bryant and Metts say their perspective has been changed by seeing what a rip current can do. “I’m not the type to go out nearly as deep as I used to, just because I’ve seen it happen a few times, so I’d rather just be safe than sorry.” Bryant said. “We’re definately a little more careful now, um, we’re keepin’ them closer to th shore, making sure they’re not going out too far.” said Metts.
The American Red Cross offers expert advice for people who find themselves in the grip of a rip current. If you are caught in a rip current, stay calm and don’t fight the current. Swim parallel to the shore until you are out of the current. Once you are free, turn and swim toward shore. If you can’t swim to the shore, float or tread water until you are free of the rip current and then head toward shore. If you feel you can’t make it to the shore, draw attention to yourself by waving and calling for help. Stay at least 100 feet away from piers and jetties. Permanent rip currents often exist near these structures. If someone is in trouble in the water, get help from a lifeguard. If a lifeguard is not available, have someone call 9-1-1. Throw the victim something that floats – a lifejacket, cooler, inflatable ball and yell instructions on how to escape the current. When at the beach, check conditions before entering the water. Check to see if any warning flags are up or ask a lifeguard about water conditions, beach conditions, or any potential hazards.