Weather News

Beach warning: Keep kids out of the ocean as rip currents hit the Central Coast

Headed to a beach this holiday weekend? You might want to keep your young ones away from the surf.

Large swells and powerful rip currents are causing an increased risk of drowning on the Central Coast, particularly on southern-facing beaches, such as Avila Beach, Cayucos, and parts of Cambria, according to PG&E meteorologist John Lindsey.

The hazardous conditions are expected to continue through Saturday, though another southern swell is expected again Sunday, Lindsey said.

“It’s better to keep kids out of the water right now,” Lindsey told The Tribune. “If in doubt, don’t go out.”

The 3- to 5-foot swell is caused by a convergence of two southern currents from cyclones: Tropical Storm Barbara, formerly a hurricane, and a massive storm that originated in New Zealand, Lindsey said. As a Category 4 hurricane, Barbara pushed across the Pacific Ocean on Wednesday with winds as high as 145 mph.

Rip currents occur throughout the year, but they are currently more powerful than usual, Lindsey said.

What is a rip current?

A rip current is a strong current flowing away from the beach through the surf zone and causes an increased risk of drowning. Already this year, 28 people died from rip currents in the surf of United States beaches, according to the National Weather Service.

To stay safe at the beach, learn how to spot and escape a rip current.

“It’s a cloudy streak of water going out toward the ocean,” Lindsey said. “It’s moving so quickly, it’s bringing sand and debris from the ocean floor.”

Avoid waters in and around that area.

Rip currents are most likely this weekend on southern-facing beaches, but they can happen on any beach, Lindsey said.

How to escape a rip current

Swimming against a powerful current can be exhausting and unsuccessful.

If you get caught in a rip current, the best thing to do is to remain calm, relax, and try to swim parallel to the shore. If you are unable to escape, face the shore and call or wave for help, according to the National Weather Service.

How to stay safe during ocean play

  • Never turn your back to the ocean.
  • Closely supervise children in the surf zone.
  • Make sure children are wearing a flotation device.
  • Swim close to a lifeguard.
  • Swim with a buddy.
  • Know how to identify a rip current.
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