Rip Current Safety Awareness Week is June 2-8, 2013
Although tropical cyclones, severe thunderstorms and tornadoes are often the first that come to mind when thinking of “most dangerous weather phenomenon in Florida”, there is another weather-related hazard that ranks as the deadliest. Florida’s beaches attract millions of residents and tourists each year. However, while there may be beautiful weather in the sky, there are unseen dangers in the waters.
Rip currents, sometimes erroneously referred to as rip tides or undertows, occur naturally and affect many Florida beaches year-round. Since 1995, rip currents have accounted for more than 300 drownings along Florida’s Gulf and Atlantic beaches. In fact, rip currents kill more people in Florida in an average year than hurricanes, tornadoes and lightning combined. In 2012, 22 people lost their lives due to rip currents: 8 along the Florida Panhandle coast, 8 deaths occurring along the Florida East Coast and 5 deaths along the Florida West Coast. In addition, 2 people died in 2011 from high surf not associated with a rip current. Many of these drowning incidents occur on days when the weather is quite pleasant, with a nice breeze blowing onshore. This catches beachgoers by surprise since fair weather is usually associated with pleasant ocean conditions.