Florida Division of Emergency Management officials are urging beachgoers from Pasco County south through Lee County to use caution today as a high risk of dangerous rip currents is expected along the Gulf Coast.
There is also a High Surf Advisory for all counties, including Manatee, through 4 p.m. this afternoon, with rough waves expected to reach 4 to 6 feet. A High Surf Advisory is issued when dangerous water action is expected along the coast, including rough surf, large breaking waves, rip currents and strong undertow. When red flags are flying beachgoers need to be aware that swimming in the Gulf of Mexico can be dangerous.
“Beachgoers and surfers should be very cautious along Pasco, Pinellas, Hillsborough, Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte and Lee County beaches today,” State Meteorologist Amy Godsey said in a press release. “It is important to follow the advice of local officials and avoid entering the water where warnings are posted.”
A rip current is a narrow, powerful current of water running perpendicular to the beach, out into the ocean. These currents may extend 200 to 2,500 feet (61 to 762 meters) lengthwise, but they are typically less than 30 feet (9 meters) wide. Rip currents can often move at more than 5 miles per hour (8 kilometers per hour) or faster.
In Florida, rip currents kill more people annually than thunderstorms, hurricanes and tornadoes combined. They are the number-one concern for beach lifeguards. According to the United States Lifesaving Association, 80 percent of surf beach rescues are attributed to rip currents.