Rip currents keep lifeguards busy

Posted September 5, 2010 6:02 p.m. EDT
Updated September 5, 2010 11:30 p.m. EDT

— High winds and rip currents are keeping lifeguards along the North Carolina Outer Banks busy this Labor Day weekend. The Kill Devil Hills Rescue Squad reported at least 13 rescues of swimmers who got caught in rip currents Sunday.

Tropical Storm Earl, which passed 55 miles off Hatteras as a Category 2 storm early Friday, left little damage in its wake. But strong surf remains and lifeguards are asking people to be careful in the water.

“The ocean is an inherently unsafe environment,” David Elder with Kill Devil Hills Ocean Rescue said Sunday.

Elder said while the water looks inviting, swimmers should not underestimate the power of the ocean.

“We are blessed with really, really nice low tide today, which means we do have some moderate rips," Elder said.

Outer Banks vacationer Stormy Van Hees and her daughter were among those who got caught in rip currents.

“You can't stand up in it. You have to like go with the flow,” Van Hees said.

Thousands of tourists are enjoying the Outer Banks this Labor Day weekend. Since Hurricane Earl made a quick exit, business owners are hopeful the weekend will turn out to be profitable.

The Labor Day weekend always provides a big boost for the tourism industry in the state, according to North Carolina Director of Tourism Marketing Wit Tuttell. Visitor spending typically tops $15 million per day along the coast in the summer.