Local News

Rip Currents Target Of New Safety Campaign

Posted May 24, 2004

— Every year, dozens of people drown because of rip currents. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association launched a new program, called "Break the Grip of the Rip" to help save lives.

Rip currents are powerful, channeled currents of water flowing away from shore. They typically extend from the shoreline, through the surf zone, and past the line of breaking waves.

The family of CNN reporter Larry LaMotte was among those stressing the importance of warnings and safety at Wrightsville Beach Monday.

Last year, LaMotte and six others drowned in one day along the Florida panhandle.

"The really true tragedy of that day is that it did not need to happen," widow Sandee LaMotte said.

Rip currents are powerful, channeled currents of water flowing away from shore. They typically extend from the shoreline, through the surf zone, and past the line of breaking waves.

"We're talking about saving people's lives. We're talking about information that can make a difference to every one who comes to the beach during the summer," said Vice Adm. Conrad Lautenbacher of NOAA.

Each year, more than 100 people drown because of rip currents. They account for about 80 percent of all lifeguard rescues.

"Rip currents have been measured as fast as 8-feet per second, which is faster than an Olympic swimmer can sprint, "said Wendy Carey of Sea Grant.

The greatest safety precaution that can be taken is to recognize the danger of rip currents and always remember to swim at beaches with lifeguards.

LaMotte urges families to know the safety information before they go to the beach.

"The really tragic thing is if we had known last summer the information you all have heard today, Larry would still be here with us," she said.

Warning signs will be posted along beaches on the North Carolina coast.

Those involved with the awareness campaign want a more uniform warning system -- one that would require all surf beaches in the United States to post the signs.

Comments

This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all