Troubled waters: Lifeguards advise against the number one beach danger

Troubled waters: Lifeguards advise against the number one beach danger

Experts say they're hard to spot, but can easily overwhelm the average beach goer.

According to Isle of Palms Lifeguard instructor and Assistant Park Manager Cole Thomas, rip currents account for more than 80 percent of drowning deaths in the open water.

Wednesday, a North Charleston man died as a result of drowning following an incident in the area of Palms Boulevard at Beachside Drive.  Thomas said park lifeguards made three rescues Sunday, while the National Weather Service reported an additional five late Thursday.

"There's no rhyme or reason to it really," added Thomas.  "They don't come around a certain time of year. People just start to hear about them more because there's more people in the ocean."

According to The National Weather Service, the average rip current travels at a speed of 1-2 feet per second, but have been recorded at speeds of up to 8 feet per second.

There are steps you can take to make your trip the open water, a safe one.

Thomas said beach goers should never attempt to swim in the same direction as a rip current, but should swim parallel to the shoreline until it's safe to swim back to shore.  If possible, she advised that swimmers also stay in range of a lifeguard in the event of an emergency.

"You have to take precaution," Thomas said.  "The ocean is completely unpredictable."

Isle of Palms County Park is scheduled to host a Beach and Rip Current safety awareness week in June.

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