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National Media Event: May 24, 2004
at Wrightsville Beach, NC

Event Details | Event Pictures

NOAA and the United States Lifesaving Association launched a national public awareness safety campaign entitled "Break the Grip of the Rip" on Monday, May 24, 2004 at Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. The national media event highlighted the dangers of rip currents to swimmers at United States coastal and Great Lakes beaches.

Over 100 people die annually from rip currents and it is estimated that 80 percent of all lifeguard rescues are the result of swimmers when unable to escape a rip current. It is estimated that many more such deaths are not reported. In 2000 alone there were 32,000 rip current related rescues according to the United States Lifesaving Association. An estimated 90 million Americans visit a beach annually. 

In an effort to make all beach goers experience safer, NOAA's National Weather Service (NWS) and Sea Grant worked closely for many years in rip current research, outreach, and education of this surf zone threat. In the summer of 2003, the NWS began issuing a standardized Surf Zone Forecast (SRF) product and rip current information at thirteen Weather Forecast Offices (WFOs): Brownsville, TX; Charleston, SC; Jacksonville, FL; Los Angeles, CA; Melbourne FL; Miami, FL; Mobile, AL; Newport, NC; Mount Holly, NJ; San Diego, CA; Tallahassee, FL; Wakefield, VA; Wilmington, NC.

The NWS Wilmington, NC Weather Forecast Office issues the Surf Zone Forecast (which includes the rip current forecast) for the beaches of Southeast North Carolina and Northeast South Carolina. Seasonally, these beaches attract nearly one million people on any given weekend. The forecasts are issued twice a day on a seasonal basis, the time period when the beaches are most populated, generally from around April to October.

The Participants in the National Media Event:
(Speaker Biographies)
VADM Conrad Lautenbacher, NOAA Administrator
Jim Lushine, NWS Warning Coordination Meteorologist, WFO Miami, FL
Dr. Wendy Carey, Delaware Sea Grant, Coastal Processes Specialist
B. Chris Brewster, President, United States Lifesaving Association
Peter Davis, Chair, USLA Public Education Committee
Sandee LaMotte Community Director, WebMD
Also available were local life guards, members of the NWS Wilmington, NC local forecast office and North Carolina Sea Grant Extension service agents who have been collaborating to implement the rip current forecast warning system locally.

*Note: Click on a speaker's name to view their presentation

National Rip Current Safety Page
NOAA May 24th News Release
NWS Wilmington, NC Surf Zone Forecast
NWS Wilmington, NC Graphical Rip Current Forecast
National Rip Current Brochure
National Rip Current Sign

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Pictures from the Event

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