These are the marine hazards to look out for

Florida Severe Weather Awareness Week continues

File Photo of the Jacksonville Beach Pier. Marine hazards are a significant threat here in Florida.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Florida Severe Weather Awareness Week continues Tuesday, and the topic is on marine hazards.

You may not think that marine hazards are severe weather, but these hazards are legitimate concerns and can be fatal.

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Rip currents are the top marine hazard to watch out for.

The ‘hidden danger’

Rip currents are by far the biggest hazard when it comes to heading to the beach.

There are sometimes called the “hidden danger,” as rip currents cannot be seen while in the water.

And, unfortunately, rip currents are deadly here in Florida.

More people die from rip currents in Florida than from hurricanes, tornadoes and lightning combined.

What is a rip current?

Rip currents form when winds from the ocean allow water to pile up against the coastline.

This increased water tries to push back out into the ocean. The water finds low spots in sandbars and quickly rushes back out to sea.

Rip currents form when water quickly moves back to sea in channels.

Rip currents can also develop near jetties and piers, where the movement of water is disrupted.

These currents are nearly impossible to see but can be observed from the beach.

A clear sign of a rip current is a consistent break of the surf. Other signs include a change in water color or a line of foam and seaweed moving out to sea.

Rip currents are often breaks or low spots in the surf.

Rip currents are a major concern along the entire Atlantic coastline in Florida.

How to survive a rip current

Rip currents are very dangerous and can be fatal due to their strength and intensity.

If caught in a rip current, do not attempt to swim immediately back to shore. Even the strongest swimmers will not be able to swim against a rip current, and exhaustion may set in.

The first thing to do if caught in a rip current is not to panic. Allow the rip current to slowly take you away from the beach.

Secondly, begin to swim parallel to the shoreline.

This is important as rip currents are narrow channels. Swimming parallel will allow you to eventually exit the rip current.

Rip current survival tips

Once out of the rip current, begin to swim back to shore.

It is also very important to swim near a lifeguard tower, especially when rip currents are forecast. Lifeguards are trained to deal with rip currents and can assist immediately.

Other marine hazards

There are other marine hazards that are issues in Florida.

Those include significant wave heights in open waters of the Atlantic and the Gulf.

If a Small Craft Advisory is issued, recreational boating is not recommended. In the event of a Gale Warning, boaters should remain in port.

When boating, be aware of forecasts and potential thunderstorms. Never allow these storms to cut off your route back to land.

Other marine hazards for beach and boating.

If you’re heading to the beach, be aware of the beach flag warnings.

These flags display the specific threats ongoing along a particular beach.

In the event a double red flag is displayed, the beach is closed to the public.

Marine hazards are significant threats here in Florida. Knowing forecasts and having a plan can help you safely prepare for a day of beach and boating.

About the Author:

David Heckard is The Weather Authority's Assistant Chief Meteorologist.