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Outdoors & Recreation
Beachgoers beware of rip currents
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Graphic courtesy of NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE
If caught in a rip tide, do not fight the current. Swim parallel with the shore until out of the current. Then swim to shore.
Pinellas County beaches are great places to relax and to swim in the Gulf of Mexico. But, Pinellas County Parks and Conservation Resources reminds beachgoers to be aware of rip currents.

According to the United States Lifesaving Association, rip currents are the leading surf hazard for beachgoers and can occur at any beach with breaking waves.

The association says swimmers should avoid areas that show signs of rip currents, which include a channel of churning, choppy water, an area with a notable water color difference, a break in the wave pattern and a line of foam, seaweed or debris moving steadily out to sea.

“Swimming at a lifeguard-monitored beach is the best way to stay safe,” said Katherine Cleary, aquatics supervisor with Pinellas County. “When conditions indicate rip currents may occur, we put up warning flags or in some cases close beaches to swimming altogether.” 

County lifeguards are on duty 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (unless otherwise posted) daily from March to September at the county’s Fort De Soto, Fred Howard and Sand Key parks.

If a swimmer is at a beach with no lifeguard on duty and gets caught in a rip current, the Association has a few tips to keep in mind.

• Remain calm to conserve energy and think clearly.

• Don’t fight the current. Swim out of the current in a direction following the shoreline or float and calmly tread water until out of the current.

• Once out of the current, swim towards shore.

• If unable to reach shore, draw attention and yell for help.

For more information on Pinellas County beaches, visit www.pinellascounty.org/park/beaches.htm. For additional information about rip currents, visit www.usla.org.
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