Potentially deadly rip currents are keeping lifeguards busy at beaches on the central North Carolina coast.
Emerald Isle lifeguards reported 13 rescues on Thursday alone, WITN in Greenville, N.C., reported. That brought the total for the week to 25, including one swimmer who drowned and another hospitalized in critical condition.
Rip currents are powerful channels of water flowing quickly away from shore. They occur most often at low spots or breaks in sandbars and near structures such as jetties and piers.
Through April 30, 31 people nationwide – not including the death in North Carolina this week – had died in surf zones, most from rip currents, a federal agency reports.
Other beaches on the Crystal Coast, an 85-mile stretch of coastline from Cape Lookout National Seashore to the New River, have also reported large numbers of rescues, WITN reported.
Atlantic Beach has had 14 rescues in the past three weeks, the news site said. Salter Path has had five rescues and 10 distress calls, and North Topsail Beach has had four distress calls (in which emergency crews respond but no one is pulled from the water).
The National Weather Service’s Wilmington station issues daily surf forecasts, including updates on rip currents, for the southern North Carolina and South Carolina coasts.
The service urges beachgoers to swim near lifeguards and pay attention to flags or signs that warn of rip currents.
What to do in a rip current
Tips from the National Weather Service:
▪ Relax and float.
▪ Don’t swim against the current.
▪ Swim in a direction following the shoreline.
▪ If unable to escape the current, face the shore and call or wave for help.