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How to Escape A Rip Current

Three tourists drowned last week in the ocean off the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. There have also been close calls and rescues elsewhere on North Carolina beaches in recent days. Francis Smith, University of California Berkeley current oceanographer, explains rip currents, how to avoid them and how to escape them if pulled in.

The National Weather Service describes rip currents as powerful, channeled currents of water flowing away from shore. They typically extend from the shoreline, through the surf zone, and past the line of breaking waves. Rip currents can occur at any beach with breaking waves.

If you become caught in a rip current, yell for help and remain calm. Do not exhaust yourself and stay afloat while waiting for help. If you have to swim out of a rip current, swim parallel to shore and back toward the beach when possible. Do not attempt to swim directly against a rip current as you will tire quickly.

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