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Rip currents expected along South Florida beaches Monday

State officials are urging beachgoers throughout South Florida to use extreme caution in the surf on Monday because of the high risk of rip currents.

The Florida Division of Emergency Management says northerly winds of 15 to 20 miles per hour combined with ocean swells of 2 to 4 feet are creating a high risk for rip currents along Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

“We strongly urge beachgoers to heed local officials’ warnings and stay out of the water where red flags are flying,” said State Meteorologist Amy Godsey in a statement issued from Tallahassee early Monday afternoon.

Additionally, there is also a moderate risk of rip currents for the remainder of the Atlantic coast between Nassau and Martin counties and a Small Craft Advisory for all of Florida’s Atlantic coastal waters.

According to information provided by the state:

A rip current is a narrow, powerful current of water that runs perpendicular to the beach, out into the ocean. These currents may extend 200 to 2,500 feet lengthwise, but they are typically less than 30 feet wide. Also, rip currents can often move at more than 5 miles per hour or faster and are not always identifiable to the average beachgoer.

In Florida, rip currents kill more people annually than thunderstorms, hurricanes and tornadoes combined. They are the No. 1 concern for beach lifeguards. According to the United States Lifesaving Association, 80 percent of surf beach rescues are attributed to rip currents. The greatest safety precaution that can be taken is to recognize the danger of rip currents and always remember to swim at beaches with lifeguards.

If caught in a rip current:

• Remain calm to conserve energy and think clearly.

• Never fight against the current.

• Think of a rip current like a treadmill that cannot be turned off, which you need to step to the side of.

• Swim out of the current in a direction following the shoreline. When out of the current, swim at an angle — away from the current — towards shore.

• If you are unable to swim out of the rip current, float or calmly tread water. When out of the current, swim towards shore.

• If you are still unable to reach shore, draw attention to yourself by waving your arm and yelling for help.

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