FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WFFT) —Rip currents account for over 80% of rescues performed by lifeguards.
A recent study indicates that over 100 deaths each year in the United States are due to rip currents.
But, what is a rip current and what makes it so deadly?
A rip current or rip is a specific type of water current that can occur near beaches with breaking waves.
The current is strong, localized and narrow.
They typically form at breaks in sandbars, near jetties and piers.
What is a Rip Current?
Rip currents are narrow currents in the surf zone that move quickly away from shore and can reach speeds over 5 mph - faster than an Olympic swimmer!
Find out more: https://t.co/SAqE4t8W33https://t.co/dMMu24apQQ#weatherknowledgewedneday #mewx #nhwx pic.twitter.com/qEq75RTzgt
— NWS Gray (@NWSGray) August 12, 2020
What makes them so dangerous is that the current pulls you away from the shore into deeper water.
The speed of the current varies and even the strongest swimmer can drown from a rip current.
According to a release, NOAA is launching a national rip current forecast model.
Be on the lookout this summer for rip currents on Lake Michigan. Before your next visit to the beach, learn how to spot a rip current and what to do if you get caught in one. Always check the local beach forecast for any warnings, and exercise caution. pic.twitter.com/nGlsnqVbaU
— Indiana Dunes (@IndianaDunesNPS) July 19, 2019
It is aimed at saving the lives of beach-goers around the country and it includes the Great Lakes.
The new model can predict the hourly probability of a rip current up to six days out.
Impressive and fantastic!
For the first time, NOAA is launching a national rip current forecast model, aimed at saving lives of beach-goers around the country: https://t.co/vfZZ50eS6d #RipTides #BeachSafety @NWS pic.twitter.com/o4XVk4rnkQ
— NOAA's Ocean Service (@noaaocean) April 7, 2021
This was made possible by the collaboration between NOAA’s National Ocean Service and National Weather Service.
The model leverages wave and water level information from the NWS’s Nearshore Wave Prediction System.
The forecast model also covers the east coast, Gulf Coast and portions of California, Hawaii, Guam and Puerto Rico.
Additional coastline coverage will be expanded in the future.
Rip current forecast for the Great Lakes will begin on May 20, 2021.
According to data collected by the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, 109 people drowned in the Great Lakes in 2020.
Of those 109 people, 56 drowned in Lake Michigan which broke the previous record of 49 reported in 2012.
This new forecast information will help with earlier predictions of rip currents and hopefully increase awareness and reduce the number of drownings.
Lake Michigan...rip current is ripping! pic.twitter.com/qNB6C36c2D
— Greg Helmer (@HelmerGreg) September 6, 2020
According to the release, there will be further improvements with webcam imagery and artificial intelligence identification of rip currents.
This is only the beginning of rip current forecast that will hopefully save lives.