Labor Day crowds warned of rip currents, rough surf

JACKSONVILLE, Fla – It turned out to be a beautiful Labor Day for people who headed to Jacksonville Beach, but lifeguards were on patrol warning of rip currents, which will remain strong into the evening and early Tuesday morning.

"We have probably 12 to 15 more lifeguards on the beach today than we normally do during the regular weekday," Jacksonville Beach Volunteer Life Saving Corps Capt. Bill Horn said. 

Red flags were flying as a reminder that conditions are hazardous. Lifeguards urged everyone except the most experienced swimmers and surfers to stay in knee-deep water.

"Know your own physical limits," Horn said. "If you're not a great swimmer, you need to recognize that we want people to stay near the lifeguards; swim near the lifeguards. Be in a guarded area and when you get to the beach, go and ask the lifeguard before you get in the water, 'Hey, where are the dangerous spots?'"

They knew the Labor Day holiday would bring crowds, which means more people for them to look after.

"Lifeguards' job is not just that one person. It's everybody on the beach," Horn said.

John and Anna Brekka moved to Jacksonville about a year ago from New Hampshire. Anna knows what to do if she were to get caught in a rip current.

"Let it take you and then go parallel to the coastline. That's the way to do it, I understand," she said.

"Don't panic. That's the first thing people do," Horn said. "They start to burn up all their energy by panicking and fighting the current. The best thing to do is swim parallel to the shore north or south. Relax; try not to burn up all your energy and you can also signal to the lifeguard and the lifeguard will be watching you."

Think of an equal sign, two lines are going to same way.  This means you will need to swim left or right in order to get out of the current.  If you’re still not able to get out, face the shore and wave for help.  If you get tired or struggle to get out of the rip current, it is advised to lay on your back and try to float out of it.

 If you're still not able to get out, face the shore and wave for help.

The best advice: when in doubt, don't go out.

The captain also says conditions can be more dangerous after high tide, when the water is slowly backing out and receding off the sandbars. He says to be extra cautious during that time.

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