Forecasters Warn of Rip-Current Risk for Swimmers in Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach

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Much like the days following Thanksgiving, the days following Christmas are not good ones to swim at the beach. The National Weather Service has issued an urgent coastal hazard message, warning of dangerous rip tides.

The "high riptide risk" has been issued for Broward, Palm Beach, and Miami-Dade counties and will last until at least 7 p.m. today, although the message says that a risk of rip currents can remain until the middle of the week. 

Rip currents are a powerful current of water near the surface that moves directly away from the shore, cutting through waves. They're most common in low areas or breaks in a sandbar. As a riptide flows back into the ocean against the waves, it's common for a swimmer to get pushed out by it. Swimming directly against the flow of water becomes exhausting, and panic may set in. Rip-current rescues are often the most common for lifeguards.

If you're ever caught in a rip current, experts say you need to swim parallel to the shore until the rip current subsides. You can also float with the current until it subsides and you can swim back to shore, although this is not the best choice, since the current can carry you into deeper waters. Never swim toward the shore against a rip current.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, about 100 people die annually as the result of rip currents. 

On Sunday, a Volusia County 17-year-old had to be rescued after he was dragged deep into the water by a rip current. According to WKMG in Orlando, the teen was dragged out about 400 feet before he could wave down for help on his surfboard. A couple of Jet Skis were sent out to rescue him and bring him back to shore.

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