Beware of rip currents

These hot summer days are a perfect time to enjoy the lakeshores. But swimmers must use caution.

Swimming in the Great Lakes can be dangerous. Just this week, a 14-year-old Escanaba boy drowned at the Escanaba Municipal Beach.

The teen had been swimming with a friend according to Escanaba Public Safety Department officials.

He was reported missing from the northeast end of the beach, outside the swimming area, at 5:22 p.m. Wednesday, police said

After nearly four hours of searching, his body was located off the northeast area of the beach around 9:15 p.m.

Some observers suspect he was a victim of a rip current.

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, reports the National Weather Service.

Rip currents can occur at any beach with breaking waves, including the Great Lakes.

Rip currents can be killers. The United States Lifesaving Association estimates that the annual number of deaths due to rip currents on our nation’s beaches exceeds 100.

On average, eight people die each year in the Great Lakes because of rip currents.

Rip currents account for over 80 percent of rescues performed by surf beach lifeguards, the National Weather Service reports.

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.

The United States Lifesaving Association has calculated the chance that a person will drown while attending a beach protected by USLA affiliated lifeguards at 1 in 18 million.

If caught in a rip current at an unguarded beach, how you respond could make the difference between life and death.

The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service and National Sea Grant Program, in partnership with the United States Lifesaving Association, are working together to raise awareness about the dangers of rip currents.

Research is also being conducted in order to develop and improve the ability to predict the occurrence and strength of rip currents. The goal of the awareness campaign and research is to reduce the number of rip current related fatalities.

A daily rip current outlook is included in the National Weather Service’s Surf Zone Forecast. The lake shore hazard messages for rip current risks in Lake Superior are from Marquette to Grand Marais area.

A three-tiered structure of low, moderate, high is used to describe the rip current risk.

With increasing coastal populations, rip currents will continue to be a serious hazard at surf beaches.

The time you take to understand rip currents can help you protect yourself and your loved ones when visiting the beaches.

How to recognize a rip current:

– A difference in water color.

– A break in the incoming wave pattern.

– A channel of churning choppy water.

– Foam or objects that move steadily offshore.

– Rip currents are rarely more than 30 feet wide.

Swimmers on the Great Lakes need to be aware of the possibility of rip currents.

If you get caught in a rip current, you will be pulled rapidly away from the beach.

Sea Grant offers these tips to swimmers to break the grip of a rip current:

– Don’t fight the current.

– Swim parallel to shore to get out of the current then head back to shore at an angle.

– If you can’t escape, float calmly until the current slows.

– If you need help, call or wave for assistance.

– Swim at a beach protected by a lifeguard.