Severe Weather Awareness Week: Rip Currents and Boating Hazards

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Severe Weather Awareness Week continues in Florida, and Tuesday's topic is all about rip currents and marine hazards.

A rip current is a narrow channel of water flowing away from shore. Sometimes you can spot the brown color as sand gets kicked up. Weather and ocean conditions often cause rip currents to be stronger and more frequent. Usually they'll form along the beach at breaks in the sandbar and near piers or jetties.

You'll know if you're caught in a rip current because it'll pull you away from shore into deeper water. The best thing to do is stay calm and swim parallel to the shore (away from the current). You can remember the simple phrase: "Don't fight; swim left or right."

Be informed of beach flags before you go into the water, and if you can, always swim near a lifeguard. Don't get caught in a rip current trying to save someone else. Instead, yell instructions how to escape and call for help.

According to statistics from the National Weather Service, rip currents claim more lives in Florida than hurricanes, floods, tornadoes and lightning combined.

If you're boating on the water, be mindful of Florida's ever-changing weather conditions. If you hear thunder, you're close enough to get struck by lightning and you should head back to land. If you can't get back to safe shelter, get away from masts and metal objects and get as low as possible (below the deck).

Waterspouts (tornadoes over water) can easily turn over boats. If you're ever caught near a waterspout, move at a 90 degree angle from its movement and head back to shore.

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