In less than two weeks, rip currents have taken the lives of at least 11 people.
MISSISSIPPI (WCBI) – It is one of the most popular vacation spots for people in North Mississippi and West Alabama, but there are dangers in the water from Fort Morgan to Panama City Beach.
First responders said there have been multiple drownings.
In less than two weeks, rip currents have taken the lives of at least 11 people. Data shows rip currents kill more people than tornadoes or hurricanes. Even if you are a good swimmer, you are no match for a rip current.
A popular hotspot for the Fourth of July weekend, Panama City Beach, has had emergency workers respond to 70 swimmers in distress over ten days.
Columbus Fire Search and Rescue Caption Damon Estes has been caught in a rip current before.
“Luckily, I had a flotation device with me,” Estes said. “It’s kind of nerve-racking experience you all of a sudden get swept away from the shore which is your safe zone.”
The water can look calm in one minute, but all of that can change in an instant.
“The big thing with that is paying attention to the beach flags if you’re going to the beach area,” Estes said. “They’re gonna have flags that tell you the green or obviously the red is closing the beach and stuff like just a level to be on alert. So, that’s gonna be an important aspect that’s gonna help you stay safe and know the risk of a rip current. We have to remember that drowning is a silent event. Movies make you think people are hollering and stuff, but they’re not. If you’re drowning, the last thing you’re gonna do is waste your breath. If someone is in a safe location from the beach, they need to be watching those who are in the water, especially children. Drowning is one of the leading causes of death in children. So, it’s very important to have somebody watching.”
Margaret McMullen from Starkville just moved to the Gulf Coast, and she said it’s scary to think about being on the beach and seeing people lose their life.
“It makes you nervous, and I’m very concerned for our guests that come down here that are so excited about being at the beach and don’t take heed of the red flags or the double red flags,” McMullen said. “So, I think that is the biggest thing that can help is for people to be aware of the flags and what they mean, and be cautious when they get in the water. They’re so excited about being here and being in the ocean and playing in the tides until they’re not aware.”
Estes said if you get in a rip current, it’s important to not panic.
“The rip current is going to take you away from the shoreline, so swim parallel with the shoreline to get out of that rip current,” Estes said. “If you’re trying to swim straight back to the beachline, it’s just like trying to swim upstream. Even strong swimmers cant move upstream very well. So, swim to the side of that rip current.”
There is currently a high rip current risk in effect through Tuesday, July 4, for multiple counties in the Florida panhandle.
- Score Stellar Discounts for Your Last-Minute Summer Vacation With These Deals
- Are there any end-of-summer travel deals left?
- How to save money on your next short vacation
- Amazon Prime Day 2022 Travel Deals You Need For Your Next Adventure
- High Gas Prices Won't Get in the Way of a "Close-cation" With Whimstay, the Industry Leader in Last-Minute Vacation Rental Deals