Friday, August 27, 2010

National Park Service Press Release

I recently received the following press release from the National Park Service re. rip currents. I want to make it perfectly clear that ocean swimming at Ocracoke is fun, relaxing, and a delight. We have one of the best beaches in the country. I swim in the ocean regularly, as do thousands of other people...locals and visitors alike.

Unfortunately, dangerous rip currents do sometimes form. With a little bit of common sense and accurate information you can enjoy our beach...and avoid the danger of rip currents. The Park Service notice below is one of the best and most accurate explanations I have ever come across. Please read it carefully...and enjoy a safe and wonderful day at the beach!

Be Aware of Dangerous Ocean Surf and Currents

Rough surf conditions routinely produce life-threatening rip currents capable of overtaking even the strongest swimmers and surfers. The National Park Service offers the following information and tips to help Outer Banks visitors avoid this potentially deadly ocean hazard.

Rip currents are channels of water that develop in an opening in a sand bar. Though relatively narrow near the beach, rip currents can increase to over 50 yards in width as they extend up to 1000 feet offshore. The velocity of the water can be as high as 5 mph.

Rip currents can be identified before entering the water. Look for an area of murky water due to sediment mixing as the channel opened in the sandbar. If the rip current has lasted a long time, the color of the water will appear darker than the surrounding water because of the channel carved by the flowing water. Rip currents will also move objects and/or foam steadily seaward and will cause a break in the incoming wave pattern.

The most common mistake of those caught in a rip current is to panic and attempt to swim directly back toward the shore. Even the best Olympic swimmers can not successfully swim towards the shore in the strongest rip currents. Rip currents can pull a swimmer away from the shore but not under the water.

Safety Tips

* Stay out of the water during dangerous surf conditions.

*Know how to swim. Non-swimmers should not rely on floats, such as boogie boards, while in deep water.

* Always swim near a lifeguard.

* Locate rip currents before entering the water.

* Tune in to NOAA weather radio and monitor websites (National Weather Service, Eastern Dare County, NC) and local media for updated surf conditions during your stay on the Outer Banks.

* Check with the lifeguards about rip currents and other hazardous conditions.

* Do not attempt to rescue someone caught in a rip current. Notify a lifeguard or, if there is no lifeguard, yell directions on how to escape, throw the victim something that floats, and call 911.

What to do if caught in a rip current:

* Remain calm. Remember, it will not pull you under.

* Swim parallel to the shore until you break free, then swim diagonally toward the shore.

* If you cannot swim out of the current, float until it weakens, then swim diagonally toward the shore.

* Summon help by waving your hands.

For more information on rip currents, ask a lifeguard or check the website at

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter, Looking for the Wahabs of Ocracoke, was written by Dr. James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute. You can read the article here:


  1. Anonymous10:07 AM


    This morning's national weather report, noting an Atlantic hurricane far out to sea that will trigger rough surf along the East Coast, made me think of Ocracoke. The press release clearly isn't coincidental. Here's hoping your posting helps spread the word.

  2. Anonymous10:45 AM

    Philip, as usual, you are top of "current" events. Like the other blogger, I also thought of Ocracoke. I'm most thankful the storm won't come on shore, but the deadly rip currents must be taken seriously.

    There will be plenty of days when the rip currents won't be as much of an issue; but for now, it's better to be safe, than sorry.

    Praying all will swim safely and cautiously during this alert.

  3. Anonymous11:52 AM

    Wow -- Oh, I know Baywatch has probably given the average bear the glamorized version of a day in the life of a life guard -- but what if -- on days, if there is such a thing- when weather conditions would most likely breed rip currents -- what if there was someone on shore--- knowledgeable--- that could spot a rip current .. sound their whistle and shout " May I have your attention " This is a rip current!!!! could day glow orange cones be placed on the shore as to alert the visitors as to what to look for thus isolating the spot for that hour -- day ??? yes, we have all seen line art drawings of a cartoon rip current but Heavens to Betsy, Does one absentminedly walk from shore into a rip current ??? does one in the water easily get caught up into one?? Would you be willing to speculate as to how One is mostly likely to wind up in a rip current?? Once again, this involves some shore patrolling but if the full time populace were skilled in identifying a rip current and on a daily walk spots such a thing -- would this be construed as fear mongering , pointing out the boogie man, scaring tourists away or performing a public service??. Or are rip currents like sharks they could be out there ,, take your chances??

  4. Anonymous3:43 PM

    If you've ever felt the unmistakenly pull of a true rip current and survived it, as I have, then that's the reason for all the concern. It's not to frighten the tourists, but rather remind each one the ocean is as powerful as it is breathtakingly beautiful.

    I have a deep respect for rip currents and I don't mind being reminded of a few life-saving safety rules.

    Philip, keep up the good work!