Rip Current Awareness Week
What makes Galveston special is its 32 miles of beautiful beaches. Like most beaches, there are rip currents in the Gulf of Mexico that you might not be prepared for. Any beach with breaking waves can have rip currents, which increases your risk of drowning. In the U.S., over 100 people lose their lives each year due to rip current drownings. In fact, rip currents are the leading cause of rescues by beach lifeguards across the nation. This makes them the biggest hazard for people who get in the water. Galveston beaches, in particular, can be dangerous because of their strong lateral currents combined with the rock jetties found at some beaches.
But don’t let this keep you from enjoying Galveston’s many beaches. Instead, it’s important to learn what rip currents are and what to do if you get caught in one. You should always be mindful and prepared about the possibility of rip currents. Be especially cautious if you have kids playing in the water. Rip currents are particularly dangerous for amateur swimmers, and they can even sweep away the strongest of swimmers.
What are Rip Currents?
Rip currents are powerful, river-like currents which flow away from the beach. They pass through the surf zone, then through the line of breaking waves. Contrary to what many believe, rip currents don’t pull you underwater. Rather, the strength of these currents can sweep a person off their feet and carry them away from shore. People panic or get too tired, and that’s how they wind up under water.
What Can You Do to Stay Safe From Rip Currents in the Gulf of Mexico?
#1. Select Beaches With Lifeguards:
Choosing a beach with a lifeguard lowers your risk of drowning to 1 in 18 million. Lifeguards can rescue you in dire situations, and they can give you a heads-up on areas in the water to avoid. Your safest bet is to swim close to the lifeguard tower.
When warm weather hits, Stewart Beach and 51st Street are staffed with lifeguards. During peak season, you’ll find a lifeguard at almost every tower across the shore, from East Beach all the way to 77th Street. Lifeguard towers that are manned will have a flag on the tower. When in doubt, you can call Galveston Island Beach Patrol to find out which beaches are staffed on the day you go to the beach.
#2. Don’t Panic!
If you ever get pulled away in a rip current, don’t panic and don’t try to fight it. Allow yourself to float with it. As the current becomes weaker, swim sideways or diagonally away from it. If the current takes you far out, take breaks between treading by floating. Once you’re out of the current, you can find a longshore current that can help take you back to shore. Drowning happens when people can’t stay afloat and get back to shore due to panic or exhaustion.
#3. Let a Lifeguard do the Rescue:
If you see someone caught in a rip current, throw them something, like a boogie board or floatable, to keep them afloat. Find a lifeguard to help with the rescue. People who aren’t trained for rip current rescues can wind up drowning.
#4. Know How to Spot Rip Currents:
To an untrained eye, rip currents are hard to spot. They’re easier to see from an elevated position. Start by looking from atop a dune line or the stairway entry to the beach. Scan the water for flat spots along the line of waves breaking. These are the areas you should avoid. You can also tell by the areas in the water with foam or sediment being carried away from the shore.
What types of jellyfish are in the Gulf of Mexico? Find out here while learning how you should treat a jellyfish sting. If you need immediate medical attention, Hospitality Health ER is a top-rated emergency room in Galveston located at 4222 Seawall Blvd.