This weekend marks the unofficial start to the summer season and that means many people will be heading to the beach over the coming months. Sun, surf and sand are the things that many look forward to when heading to the beach. However, there are some risks at the beach that some may not be aware of.

Rip currents are one of those often unseen dangers at the beach. A rip current is a strong current of water rushing away from the shoreline. This strong current often pulls swimmers out into deeper water, where it can be difficult to stay afloat.

Rip currents have caused more fatalities along the Gulf Coast than tornadoes, lightning, tropical systems and flooding from 2002 to 2022. Unfortunately, nearly 200 people have lost their lives to rip currents along the Gulf Coast over the past 20 years.

This is why it is so important to understand the risks before heading to the beach. Know that rip currents can pull out even the most experienced swimmers. Check the rip current risk before heading out. This is often noted by a flag system near a lifeguard station or near public beach access. The flags are colored green, yellow and red and each indicate different surf conditions for the beach you are visiting. If the flags are double red then the water is closed to swimmers and you should not enter the water due to rough surf conditions.

If you find yourself in a rip current, do not panic. Save your energy and use it to swim parallel to the shoreline to escape the rip current. If you feel that you can not swim out of the rip current, stay afloat, wave your arms above your head and call for help.

Be safe when having fun at the beach this summer and remember to be aware of the surf conditions where you are. To get the latest forecast for your beach destination, add your favorite beach to our Live Alert 19 app.