UPDATE: The National Weather Service warns of a high rip current risk remains in effect through Tuesday evening. Breaking waves up to 5 to 7 feet are expected along area beaches. The affected counties are Pinellas, Hillsborough, Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte, and Lee.
Heading to the beach on Christmas is a tradition for many in Southwest Florida. But the conditions are causing concerns right now. The National Weather Service said rip currents are posing a severe danger.
At Englewood Beach, you can hear the waves crashing and feel the wind blowing. But it is not as easy to see a rip current forming in the gulf. The rough waves are as high as 7 ft. They are enough to keep Ellen Clement out of the water on her 10th birthday.
“It’s a little windy and the waves are really big,” Clement said. “I put my feet in and I walked in a little, but not much.”
However, it is not enough to keep visitors away from Englewood Beach. Connie Snow, who lives there, said she enjoys being outside. And on a sunny day, she does not “want to be stuck inside.”
Some are staying in the shallow waters. The National Weather Service said the advisories for all coastal Southwest Florida are in effect through Christmas Eve. So, despite a high risk of rip currents in Charlotte and Lee counties, along with that moderate risk in Collier County, some are braving the big waves.
“What you want to do is to get out of the rip current,” said Matt Devitt, a WINK News meteorologist. “And the best way to do that is to swim parallel to the shore.”
Right now, you have a higher risk of getting caught in a rip current near jetties and piers, so stay away from those and near a lifeguard if possible.
But, while the beach conditions are less than ideal, it gives visitors like Clement an opportunity to enjoy what matters most.
“I like how I am with my family,” Clement said.
Rip currents are powerful channels of water flowing quickly away from shore…which occur most often at low spots or breaks in the sandbar and in the vicinity of structures such as groins, jetties, and piers. For maximum safety swim near a lifeguard. Pay attention to flags and signs.
If you become caught in a rip current, yell for help. Remain calm, do not exhaust yourself and stay afloat while waiting for help. If you have to swim out of a rip current…swim parallel to shore and back toward the beach when possible. Do not attempt to swim directly against a rip current as you will tire quickly.
A High Surf Advisory means that high surf will affect beaches in the advisory area producing localized beach erosion and dangerous swimming conditions.