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Rip Currents: Break The Grip of the Rip ®

click for various rip current signs and brochuresNational Rip Current Awareness Week June 3-9, 2012

National Weather Service and National Sea Grant Program, in partnership with the United States Lifesaving Association, are working together to raise awareness about the dangers of rip currents and how to protect yourself.

"Anyone who swims in the Atlantic or Pacific oceans, Gulf of Mexico or Great Lakes needs to know what a rip current is capable of and how to react if caught," said Brig. Gen. David L. Johnson, U.S. Air Force (Ret.), former director of the NOAA National Weather Service.

Rip Currents and Lake Erie?

Starting on Memorial Day weekend, and continuing through the summer, NOAA's National Weather Service Forecast Office in Cleveland will once again be adding rip current information to some of the weather forecast and outlook products we issue when there is an increased risk of rip currents along the shoreline of Lake Erie.

The 2008 Season started NWS CLE Rip Current Program...
     When there is either a Moderate or High risk for rip currents along the Lake Erie shoreline between Maumee Bay and Ripley, NY, NWS Cleveland will highlight this increased risk in our morning Hazardous Weather Outlook (HWO) and in our Nearshore Marine Forecast. In addition, a Lakeshore Hazard Message will be issued especially for those times that he rip current risk is determined to be High.

  • Low Risk of rip currents. Wind and/or wave conditions are not expected to support the development of rip currents; however, rip currents can sometimes occur, especially in the vicinity of groins, jetties, and piers. Know how to swim and heed the advice of lifeguards.
  • Moderate Risk of rip currents. Wind and/or wave conditions support stronger or more frequent rip currents. Only experienced surf swimmers should enter the water.
  • High Risk of rip currents. Wind and/or wave conditions support dangerous rip currents. Rip currents are life-threatening to anyone entering the surf.
    Note: When you arrive at the beach, speak with on-duty lifeguards about rip currents and all other water conditions expected for the day.

    Rip currents are powerful, channeled currents of water flowing away from shore. They typically extend from the shoreline, through the surf zone, and past the line of breaking waves. Rip currents can occur at any beach with breaking waves, including beaches on Lake Erie, and all of the Great Lakes.

    photo of rip current

    Rip currents most typically form at low spots or breaks in sandbars, and also near structures such as groins, jetties and piers. Rip currents can be very narrow or extend in widths to hundreds of yards. The seaward pull of rip currents varies: sometimes the rip current ends just beyond the line of breaking waves, but sometimes rip currents continue to push hundreds of yards offshore. For more information on the formation of rip currents, please go to NOAA’s NWS Rip Current Science Page.

    Rip currents can be killers. The United States Lifesaving Association (USLA) estimates that the annual number of deaths due to rip currents on our nation's beaches exceeds 100. Rip currents account for over 80% of rescues performed by surf beach lifeguards.

    The greatest safety precaution that can be taken is to recognize the danger of rip currents and always remember to swim at beaches with lifeguards.  The USLA has calculated the chance that a person will drown while attending a beach protected by USLA affiliated lifeguards at 1 in 18 million. If caught in a rip current at an unguarded beach, how you respond could make the difference between life and death.

    When NWS meteorologists forecast a moderate or high risk of rip currents on the shoreline of Lake Erie from Maumee Bay to Northeast, PA, a statement will be included in the “Today” section of the Hazardous Weather Outlook stating that there is an increased risk of rip currents. A statement will also be placed in the Nearshore Marine Forecast. When there is a high risk of rip currents, a Lakeshore Hazard Message will also be issued.

    When there is an increased risk of rip currents, beachgoers should take extra precaution and follow safety rules. However, it should be noted that even when there is not an increased risk of rip currents forecast, beachgoers should always use caution when swimming as rip currents can occur at anytime, especially near fixed structures such as piers, groins or jetties.

    For more information on rip currents, please look at the NOAA/NWS Rip Current Brochure, or visit:

    NOAA’s NWS Rip Current Awareness Page

    NOAA SeaGrant Michigan Rip Current Page


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    Page last modified: 15 APR, 2012

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