Rip current risk high at SPI, beach goers asked to avoid entering deep water

By: Cassandra Garcia

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The rip current risk is currently high at South Padre Island.

At Isla Blanca Park, lifeguards hoist a red flag to warn swimmers about the high rip current risk. Days like today can be dangerous if you're not paying attention.

"With higher winds come a bigger surf and more rip currents and more lateral currents as well," Cameron County Beach Patrol Chief Art Hurtado said.

A lateral or long shore current moves parallel to the shore. It makes it difficult to stay in front of a certain spot on the beach.

A rip current is when the water digs a hole in the sand underneath. It creates a current that flows away from shore, and it's easy to get caught in. 

"They'll notice that they're actually being taken afar. If they try to swim against it they won't be making any progress," Hurtado said.

You won't know you're caught in a rip current until it happens, but you can spot them.

"You'll see a section with a bunch of waves, but then you'll see one section that's particularly calm," Hurtado said. "That's actually the bottleneck where it gets people taken out."

The water is pretty murky at the island, which makes it even more dangerous because these rip currents can be difficult to spot. However, lifeguards say you should be looking for a break in the waves, that's the danger zone.

Hurtado says rip currents are the leading cause of drowning deaths in the U.S., but if you stay calm, you can make it out safely.

"It's just pulling you out again, it doesn't pull you down, so you can actually flow and stay there for safety and call for help or swim laterally to the beach to get out of it," Hurtado said.

He recommends swimming in areas where there is a lifeguard on duty because they're trained to spot rip currents. However, the best way to avoid them is by not entering deep water.

Watch the video above for the full story.


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