Beware of rip currents along Gulf Coast

Updated: May. 20, 2021 at 8:48 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - There’s a high risk of rip currents for Gulf Shores and Orange Beach through the weekend. On Thursday, waters were closed to swimmers because of life-threatening rip currents.

Rip currents are the number one weather-related killer along Alabama’s Gulf Coast.

Beach flags are posted along Alabama’s Gulf Coast alerting swimmers to the water conditions. Gulf Shores beach safety director Joethan Phillips says it’s the first thing you should look for before getting in the water.

“We want you to look at that and know what you’re getting into when you come down here. Look at, look up rip currents,” Phillips said.

Rip currents are channelized currents of water flowing away from shore at surf beaches.

If you feel yourself being pulled out, remain calm, wave and yell for help. You can also swim parallel to the shore to escape the rip current.

If you see another swimmer in trouble, Phillips says don’t become a victim trying to save someone else.

“We encourage people not to go out to them, just to call us,” he said.

Gulf Shores lifeguards have rescued 45 swimmers so far this season.

Phillips says it doesn’t have to be a red flag day for the water to be dangerous.

“Even if it’s a flat day there’s inshore holes that you may step off of and it would be deeper from where the rip currents did pull, so maybe something that you’re not aware of and step off into, it’d be deeper. And if you are not an experienced swimmer, that could definitely hamper you when you’re trying to get out,” he said.

If you aren’t an experienced swimmer, Phillips recommends you wear a life jacket.

Also, remember the Gulf is much different than a pool.

“A pool is a controlled environment. You can control what goes on in the pool. At the beach, in the Gulf, you can’t do that. There’s conditions that change throughout the day,” said Phillips.

Phillips also suggests you swim in areas where lifeguards are present and swim with a buddy.

The Gulf Shores beach safety website offers more tips.

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