NOAA develops rip current forecast model

Reporter: Zach Oliveri Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
Credit: WINK News.

NOAA now has a way to predict rip currents — strong waters that can rip swimmers away from shore in an instant.

There’s a new forecast in the works that will give us all potentially lifesaving information.

Brian Baker was visiting Fort Myers Beach from Ohio when we spoke to him. He told us he knows how dangerous rip currents can be.

“I was up in Clearwater and got caught up in one,” Baker said. “Got slammed up against some rocks by the time it let me go. I mean, I was a pretty healthy 16-year-old, and it did a number on me.”

Baker had no idea what he was wading into that day. He said he’s lucky he walked away with only scrapes and bruises.

Rip currents can be deadly and carry someone away without warning.

“Obviously you can’t see it under water, what’s going on, so any amount of preparedness is great,” Baker said.

That preparation or warning for people on the beach is being developed. NOAA is set to debut a new rip current forecast model.

“What we’re able to do is simulate rip currents in a much finer detail, and for the first time, we are confident enough in that forecast to go out six days,” said Daniel Noah, a warning coordination meteorologist with NOAA.

Rip currents are common in many places. In Southwest Florida, Noah told us we need to be on guard when a cold front moves through or when tropical systems are brewing.

“Even when there’s a day where there’s no risk of rip currents, if you’re near a jetty or a pier, there can be currents there that can cause havoc,” Noah explained.

Noah told us people who don’t live in Florida who aren’t use to being in the water are most at risk

If you ever get caught in a rip current, stay calm, and swim parallel to the shore until you get out of the current. Then, swim back to shore.

The NOAA forecast model is expected to be ready to go in May.

“I think it’s a great thing,” Baker said. “Technology is always evolving, so it’s good they’re trying to stay on top of it.”

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