PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) — Sadly, the rip currents in Panama City Beach can quickly turn from calm to deadly.
“Rip currents are fast, narrow moving channels of water that will pull you out away from the shore. The speeds rip currents move can be up to eight feet per second. For reference an Olympic swimmer swims on average up to four feet per second,” said News 13’s Chief Meteorologist Ross Whitley. “That means no matter how well you swim you can be caught off guard by a rip.”
He added that rip currents will not pull you under like a rip tide or undertow they will only pull you out.
“They are survivable but you need to know what to do,” Whitley said.
Here you’ll find information on how to spot them from shore and what to do if caught in a rip or if you see someone in a rip.
How to Spot a Rip Current from Shore
1. The U in the sand (red line on the beach) happens from sand being displaced thanks to the onshore flow of the water. The rip is usually on the downwind side of the U but can be perfectly straight out. That typically happens when the wind is directly onshore.
2. Look for deeper water. Note where the rips are typically deeper and the color of the water darker. (Red Line pointed out)
3. Look for surf, where the waves are breaking the water is likely coming in or fighting the water coming out this is usually where the shallower water is. (Yellow Lines)
4. Stand still and watch the water for 30 seconds if you can visualize the water moving out and it lines up with a U in the sand plus there isn’t any surf and the water is deeper than the surrounding water. You are likely looking at a rip this water is not safe to get in even if you are an Olympic swimmer.
Here are some examples of rips from the shoreline:
What To Do If Caught In A Rip
1. Don’t panic
2. Don’t panic
3. Don’t panic
4. Float as best you can, face the shore, and wave your arms for help.
5. Note the green arrows, you can escape rip by swimming parallel to the shore in either direction (Green Lines in the picture below). There are several getting-out points where you can get back to shore if you follow the surf (yellow lines back in).
6. Continue to not panic and let the rip take you out when you feel you are no longer being pulled out swim parallel and follow waves that are moving to the shore to get out safely.
What To Do If you See Someone Caught In a Rip
1. Call 911 and tell them what access you are at.
2. Try to get a surfer/jet ski/ boater nearby attention that someone needs help
3. From the shore shout directions of what way for the person caught in the rip to swim to get out of the rip.
NEVER GET IN THE WATER TO HELP. WAIT FOR EMERGENCY RESPONDERS TO ARRIVE