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National Rip Current Awareness Week Begins June 5

June 2, 2005

Several national organizations are banding together to call attention to deadly rip currents that can form in the Great Lakes and oceans. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) Weather Service, Ocean Service, and Sea Grant College Program have designated the week of June 5, 2005, as the inaugural national Rip Current Awareness Week.

Olympic swimmer Ian Crocker and The Weather Channel are joining NOAA for this 2005 life-saving safety campaign. Future Rip Current Awareness Weeks will be scheduled for the first full week of June, coinciding with the traditional start of the summer vacation season.

Rip currents are narrow, fast-moving channels of water that move away from shore. They are powerful enough to sweep away even the strongest swimmers, which happened in 2003 on Duluth’s Park Point beach. They could also occur on Wisconsin Point beaches.

Locally, the Minnesota Sea Grant program at the University of Minnesota Duluth has developed a Web page devoted to information about Lake Superior rip currents. The site, www.seagrant.umn.edu/rip/, focuses on Duluth’s Park Point beach.

“There’s no need to stay away from the beach this summer,” said Jesse Schomberg, coastal communities educator with Minnesota Sea Grant. “Just be especially careful on windy or wavy days, especially if you’re with people who can’t swim well. It’s important to know what rip currents look like and the steps to take to get out of one if caught.”

Sea Grant offers these tips to swimmers to break the grip of a rip current:

  • Don’t fight the current.
  • Swim parallel to shore to get out of the current then head back to shore at an angle. (Rip currents are rarely more than 30 feet wide.)
  • If you can’t escape, float calmly until the current slows.
  • If you need help, call or wave for assistance.
  • Swim at a beach protected by a lifeguard.

The City of Duluth encourages people only to swim at the Park Point Beach House because it is the only location with lifeguards present.

Because shoreline conditions are similar for Wisconsin Point, experts recommend using caution there as well. “Even though we haven’t seen any rip currents on Wisconsin Point, the sediment supplies and nearshore conditions are very, very similar to those of Park Point,” said Gene Clark, coastal engineering specialist with Wisconsin Sea Grant. “We should be equally concerned about Wisconsin Point beaches.”

Nationally, more than 100 people die annually from rip currents, and the United States Lifesaving Association estimates that 80 percent of all lifeguard rescues result from rip currents. The National Weather Service considers rip currents the third deadliest weather-related hazard ahead of tornadoes, lightning, and hurricanes but behind heat waves and floods.

How to recognize a rip current:

  • A break in the incoming wave pattern.
  • A channel of churning choppy water.
  • A difference in water color.
  • Foam or objects that move steadily offshore.

You can also order a free rip current brochure from Minnesota Sea Grant by calling (218) 726-6191 or by email at seagr@d.umn.edu.

Minnesota Sea Grant is part of a network of 30 Sea Grant College Programs spanning coastal states throughout the United States and Puerto Rico.


This page last modified on January 31, 2007     © 1996 – 2017 Regents of the University of Minnesota     The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer.
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