State ranked fourth in country in rip current deaths

rip current

Cherry Point search and rescue helicopter Pedro assists the Coast Guard in searching for a missing swimmer off Carolina Beach. A hurricane that remained well off the coast created rough seas and rip currents along the beaches of North Carolina.

Mark Courtney/Halifax Media Service file photo
Published: Monday, February 17, 2014 at 21:11 PM.

Seven people died in rip currents off the coast of North Carolina last year, the fourth-highest number of rip current-related drownings in the country and the most since officials began keeping state records more than a decade ago.

The ranking is one element of a new report aimed at improving efforts to educate people about rip currents.

Rip currents are deadly, strong channels of water flowing seaward from near the shore, typically through the surf line. They occur frequently off the coast during the summer.

Last year, four swimmers drowned in rip currents during the July Fourth holiday weekend at Sunset Beach, Holden Beach and Ocean Isle Beach in the Wilmington area. None of areas had lifeguards.

Nationwide, 80 people drowned in rip currents in 2013, according to a fatalities report released last week by the National Weather Service.

The report — the first of its kind — contains data from Puerto Rico and 13 states, ranging from Pennsylvania to Texas to Oregon. By compiling specifics about the circumstances of each drowning, meteorologists hope to fine-tune warning efforts across the country.

“We’re trying to evolve a database to get a better feel for not only the number of people being impacted, but where are they from? Are they inland? Are they coastal? Is it more of a gender issue? Which age demographic?” said Steve Pfaff, warning coordinator meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wilmington. “We’re just trying to get a clue to see who’s at risk.”



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