PORTSMOUTH, Va. – Coast Guard officials are urging Labor Day weekend beachgoers to exercise extreme caution when going into the water, especially for children and inexperienced swimmers, due to tropical storm impacts.
Strong rip currents and high surf along the Mid-Atlantic coast are expected to make the water dangerous — even for the strongest swimmers.
Even if the surface weather clears and beach conditions look favorable this weekend, rip currents remain a grave danger to recreational beachgoers and boaters.
"Think twice before you go in the water this weekend, whether surfing, kiteboarding, or boating, and if you do, monitor trusted weather sources, know your limits, and plan for emergencies," said Capt. Jennifer Stockwell, commander of Coast Guard Sector Virginia.
A rip current is a localized current that flows away from the shoreline toward the ocean. Rip currents move perpendicular to shore and can be very strong. A person caught in a rip can be swept away from shore very quickly. The best way to escape a rip current is by swimming parallel to the shore instead of towards it, since most rip currents are less than 80 feet wide.
The most important thing to remember if you are ever caught in a rip current is not to panic. Continue to breathe, try to keep your head above water, and don’t exhaust yourself fighting against the force of the current.
Immediately report any life-threating, on-water emergencies to the Coast Guard on VHF radio channel 16. When using a VHF radio, the Coast Guard can determine your location to expedite sending help to you.
Local maritime emergencies can also be reported to Coast Guard Sector Virginia Command Center at (757) 483-8567.