6/8/2009 1:00 AM
06/05/09 ODNR reminds beach-goers to be aware of the waves, currents and lakebed variations that occur on Lake Erie.
National Rip Current Awareness Week, June 7-13
SANDUSKY, OH - As summer kicks off, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) reminds beach-goers to be aware of the waves, currents and lakebed variations that occur on Lake Erie. In an effort to heighten public awareness of rip currents at beaches, each year the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) designates the first full week of June as National Rip Current Awareness Week.
Rip currents are powerful, channeled currents of water flowing away from shore and can occur at any beach with breaking waves.
When waves break, water is pushed up the slope of the shore. Gravity pulls this water back toward the lake. Due to lakebed variations, waves may break strongly in some locations and weakly in others causing the water to converge in narrow, river-like currents moving away from shore. These are called rip currents.
Rip currents do not pull people under the water; they pull people away from shore. Drowning usually occurs when people panic and are unable to keep themselves afloat to swim back to shore. If caught in a rip current, you will feel yourself being pulled away from the shore. If this happens, NOAA recommends that you take the following actions:
- Remain calm to conserve energy and think clearly. Never fight against the current.
- Swim out of the current in a direction parallel to the shoreline. If you are unable to swim out of the rip current, float or calmly tread water until the current stops pulling you lakeward.
- When out of the current, swim at an angle away from the current and toward the shore.
- If you are still unable to reach shore, draw attention to yourself by waving your arm and yelling for help.
Signs of rip currents may be hard to spot, but can include a channel of churning, choppy water; an area of water of a different color; a line of algae or debris moving steadily offshore; or a break in the incoming wave pattern as waves usually do not break as readily in a rip current as in adjacent water.
Rip currents are more likely to form on beaches with a sand bar and channel system in the near-shore. They can also occur when a water current traveling along the shore encounters a structure such as a groin, a rigid structure built from the shore that interrupts water flow and limits the movement of sediment, or a jetty, which extends into a body of water to protect a harbor or coastline from the effects of currents and tides, and is forced offshore.
The size and lakeward pull of rip currents varies. The width can be 10 feet to 50 yards or more. Sometimes the rip current ends just beyond the line of breaking waves, while other times rip currents extend hundreds of yards offshore.
If you see someone in trouble, don't become a victim too:
- Get help from a lifeguard. If a lifeguard is not available, have someone call 9-1-1.
- Throw the victim something that floats - i.e., a lifejacket, a cooler or an inflatable ball.
- Yell instructions on how to escape.
Explore the shore safely at a Lake Erie beach with these SwimSafe! and Wear It Ohio! tips:
- Swim only in designated areas.
- Encourage children and those who are not strong swimmers to wear life jackets - especially if you are swimming during high wave action.
- Use the buddy system and designate one member of your party to remain on the beach to watch those who are swimming.
- Exercise caution since lakes, unlike pools, may have unseen drop-offs where water levels quickly becomes higher than your head.
- Bring a cell phone to make an emergency call if necessary.
- Leave alcoholic beverages at home when you come to the beach. Swimming and drinking do not mix.
Download a Rip Current Safety brochure from NOAA at: www.ripcurrents.noaa.gov.
Information about Lake Erie, including outdoor recreation sites and water temperatures, is found on the ODNR Office of Coastal Management Web site, www.ohiodnr.com/coastal.
Ohio State Parks SwimSafe! tips can be found by selecting "Swimming" on the "Outdoor Fun" link at: www.ohiodnr.com/parks.
Learn how to select the proper fit and type of life jackets through the ODNR Division of Watercraft's Wear It Ohio! campaign at: www.ohidnr.com/watercraft.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources ensures a balance between wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all. Visit the ODNR web site at: www.ohiodnr.com.
For further information, contact:
Gary Garnet, NOAA National Weather Service Cleveland Forecast Office
216. 265. 2370
Brenda Culler, ODNR Office of Coastal Management
419. 626. 7980
Jim Henahan, ODNR Division of Parks and Recreation
614. 265. 6549
John Wisse, ODNR Division of Watercraft
614. 265. 6695
Beth Ruth, ODNR Media Relations
614. 265. 6860