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Rip current advisory for Florida beaches

Erosion-control groins can create rip currents without warning, and lifeguards at the beach advise swimmers to try to stay a minimum of 100 feet away from structures. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

The Florida Division of Emergency Management has issued a rip current advisory for all Florida coastal waters.

The advisory said the effects of all the recent hurricanes and storms around Florida caused most of the rip tides, and former Hurricane Isaac is expected to swing back across the state this week and create more rip currents on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Even the effects of hurricanes Leslie and Michael in the Atlantic Ocean will create rip currents along the Gulf Coast, as will a stationary tropical depression in the western Caribbean this week.

FDEM meteorologist Michelle Palmer said a rip current is a narrow space of water, usually 3-6 feet wide, moving at a faster speed than surrounding waters. This speed makes them easy to spot in calm waters, but creates difficulty in high seas.

Palmer said a rip current usually runs perpendicular to the beach and can be anywhere from 200 feet to 2,500 feet in length.

Anyone caught in a rip current should remain calm and try to swim parallel to the shore to move out of the current, then alert someone you need help. Fighting the current makes the condition worse, Palmer said.

Beachgoers should check with the nearest lifeguard station for the latest conditions of the water and determine if rip currents or other marine hazards exist.

A green flag at the station means no hazardous conditions exist. A red flag signifies the presence of rip currents, while two red flags indicate the beach is closed.

Two red flags with black squares in the middle of each flag warn of hurricane conditions.

Coquina Beach and Cortez Beach are prone to rip currents because of erosion-control groins along the shoreline.

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