It is extremely important to know what offshore currents are and how to get rid of them before hitting the water at the beach. Here are tips on how to spot them.
Offshore currents are narrow, fast-moving currents common at beaches along the East, Gulf, and West coasts, as well as the shores of the Great Lakes. In June, more than 10 people died in offshore currents at beaches stretching from the Panhandle of Florida to Mobile, Alabama.
Can you spot offshore currents?
Yes, you can spot an offshore current.
WHAT WE FIND
You can spot a rip current when you’re at the beach, according to National Weather Service (NWS)the Lifesaving Association of America and Daytona Beach Fire Department. Knowing what offshore currents are and how to get out of them safely before entering the water is extremely important.
“Yes, you can spot a far-off current. However, it’s very difficult to tell if you’re very close to the water,” Dr. Greg Dusek, senior scientist with the National Oceanic Administration, told VERIFY.
“Preferably in an elevated position, away from the water’s edge, like the entrance to the beach. Then you want to scan the water for a few minutes, as imaging features can indicate the presence of offshore currents that can come and go,” Dusek said.
offshore currents found on most beaches that have lapping waves and act as “sea rivers,” moving sand, marine life and other material offshore, according to the NWS. They often form at fault points in sandy beaches and near structures, such as jetties and piers, as well as cliffs that jut out into the water.
To determine if there may be a backflow while you’re at the beach, Dusek and the American Lifesaving Association (USLA) both say you should look for the following signs:
- A narrow slit of darker, seemingly calmer waters between the crashing waves and the white waters.
- A turbid, turbid water channel.
- A difference in watercolor.
- A stream of foam, seaweed, or debris moving away from the shore.
“Look for flat spots on breaking wave lines, as cracks often occur in deeper parts of the wave zone where waves do not break. You can also see foam or sediment in the water being pulled away from the shore,” Dusek said.
The NWS says you can also detect offshore currents by wearing polarized sunglasses to help identify contrasting colors in the water. For example, deep flow channels stand out when the water is darker. You can also ask the lifeguard on duty if there are any offshore currents and point them out to you.
The Daytona Beach Fire Department says most high-current deaths occur when people caught in the water try to swim upstream to shore, which can cause them to completely burn out and drown. Often, the people who will be the rescuers also get caught in the water and drown.
If you get caught in a rip current, the NWS says you should do your best to relax and avoid panic because whirlpools don’t pull people into the water. After relaxing, you should swim parallel to the shore until you get rid of the pull of the current instead of swimming straight to the shore. When you escape the pull of the current, you can swim at an angle to the water toward the shore.
The NWS also shares other tips on how to survive whirlpools on its website, including these tips:
- If you feel you can’t get to shore, relax, face the shore and call or wave for help.
- Remember: If in doubt, don’t go out!
- If possible, swim only on beaches with lifeguards.
- If you choose to swim on beaches without lifeguards, never swim alone.
The Associated Press and partner station VERIFY WTSP-TV contributed to this report.