A rip current at Pensacola Beach caused one death and five injuries Tuesday, June 19. Rip currents are a very dangerous threat, and they can occur at any time, which means we must be cautious of them all the time; however, storms and hurricanes will increase their frequency, which, alongside unfortunate recent events, is why this topic requires additional mention right now.
A rip current is a thin, fast moving stream of water that is moving outward from the coast toward the ocean. It is caused by crashing waves pulling and pushing the sandbar until there is a gap in the ground that causes water to rush through it, quickly, as the waves recede from the shore, generating a strong current back out to sea. What that means for beach-goers during hurricane season is that the powerful storms off the coast are churning up the water, causing higher frequency and more forceful waves to crash on the beach as well as more erosion on the ocean floor. This heavy impact on beaches significantly increases the frequency of rip currents because of the wear and tear done on the sandbar, the wear and tear being clear to many of us who have visited the beach around the time of a storm to see the landscape sometimes significantly altered from the norm. With tropical storms constantly building up off the coast, any person who intends to swim at the beach during this season must be aware that even if zero tropical storms make landfall over the entire course of the season, the increased rip current threat is present.
Usually, a rip current is escapable by swimming laterally away until reaching waters without current; however, they are notorious for exhausting swimmers who attempt to swim directly against it. For more information about rip current safety, please check this link to a National Weather Service page: https://www.weather.gov/safety/ripcurrent
Megawattage is a Weather Ready Nation Ambassador to South Florida, and we promote awareness and preparedness for hazardous weather.