Officials warn about rip currents as deaths rise at NC coast


Chris Collins and other meteorologists at the National Weather Service in Newport/Morehead City study rip currents along the North Carolina coast.

 “You can’t let your guard down, because rip currents occur every day,” Collins said.

They’ve also kept a close eye on the number of deaths relating to them.

 “This year and last year combined is 21,” Collins said about North Carolina deaths. “[That’s] way too many.”

Specifically, Collins said nine deaths related to rip currents have been reported in North Carolina so far this year. That’s compared to 12 reported deaths for the entire year in 2017.

He said officials are also starting to see more areas in North Carolina reporting rip current deaths in 2018.

“We get more around Ocracoke, we’ve gotten reports from them this year, and more around the Outer Banks this year,” Collins said. “Last year, we had a number down in the southern areas around Emerald Isle and Atlantic Beach.”

Collins said with more summer ahead, there’s more concern with a growing number of visitors coming to the coast.

“I think a lot of people that are coming in from inland areas just aren’t aware of the dangers in the ocean,” he said. “They almost look at it as a large lake.”

He and others are hoping to keep people safe informing residents of what to do if you’re caught out in the water.

“We tell everyone to swim parallel to the beach until you’re out of the current, and just remain calm,” Collins said. “I know it’s hard if you’re being pulled out, you’re perceived as being pulled out. But if people just relax, swim parallel to the beach, then they can actually get out of the rip current.”

Collins and others also continue to teach others about proper precautions.

“We have an annual meeting with lifeguards at the end of the rip current season,” Collins said. “We also do a lot of outreach with communities, with communities that put up a rip current sign, kind of explaining what a rip current is, and also kind of explain the flag system. We’re going to do more of that certainly, as it continues to be an issue this year.”

Collins added throughout the United States, 37 deaths related to rip currents have been reported.

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