For Hometown News
TREASURE COAST - The Florida Division of Emergency Management reminds residents and visitors to use caution when visiting the beach, as a high risk of rip currents is expected along some of Florida's coasts this week.
Along the Atlantic Coast, through Martin County, ocean swells from Tropical Storm Leslie are generating a high risk of rip currents.
The risk of rip currents will also increase along the southeast Florida coast.
"Beachgoers should remember to review the rip current outlook for their area, check the warning flag signs before entering the water and swim within sight of a lifeguard," said Michelle Palmer, FDEM deputy state meteorologist.
It is important to remember when red flags are flying, beachgoers should remain alert while visiting the beaches. A rip current is a narrow, powerful current of water that runs perpendicular to the beach, out into the ocean.
These currents may extend 200 to 2,500 feet (61 to 762 meters) in length, but are typically less than 30 feet (9 meters) wide. Rip currents can often move at more than 5 miles per hour (8 kilometers per hour) and are not always identifiable to the average beachgoer.
When at the beach:
Before you leave for the beach, check the latest National Weather Service forecast for local beach conditions. Many offices issue a surf zone forecast.
Obey all instructions and orders from lifeguards. Lifeguards are trained to identify hazards.
Know the meaning of and obey warnings represented by colored beach flags.
Different beaches may use different colors but a commonly used series include:
Double red: Beach is closed to the public
Single red: high hazard, e.g., strong surf or currents
Yellow: medium hazard
Green: Calm conditions although caution is still necessary
Purple: Flown with either red or yellow: Dangerous marine life
Stay at least 100 feet away from piers and jetties. Permanent rip currents often exist alongside these structures.
Pay especially close attention to children and persons who are elderly when at the beach. Even in shallow water, wave action can cause loss of footing.
Be cautious. Always assume rip currents are present even if you don't see them.
If caught in a rip current:
Don't panic. Remain calm to conserve energy and think clearly.
Never swim against the rip. Stay afloat and signal for help.
Swim out of the current in a direction following the shoreline. When out of the current, swim at an angle, away from the current, toward shore.
If you are unable to swim out of the rip current, float or calmly tread water.
Draw attention to yourself, face the shore, wave your arms and yell for help.
If you see someone in trouble, don't become a victim, too. Get help from a lifeguard or, if one is unavailable, have someone call 911.
Throw the rip current victim something that floats, a lifejacket, a cooler or an inflatable ball.
Yell instructions on how to escape.
The 2012 hurricane season continues through Nov. 30.
For more information, visit www.FloridaDisaster.org.