Rip currents force lifeguards to make numerous rescues

WESTERLY, R.I. (WPRI) — Rip currents and strong surf have been keeping lifeguards across the state busy this week, and the conditions are expected to continue into Friday.

Misquamicut Beach Lifeguard Manager Cooper Ferreria told Eyewitness News that many of his lifeguards had to make more than a dozen rescues each on Wednesday.

“We had points in the day when every lifeguard has been in the water making rescues,” he said.

Surfers and swimmers were loving the effects of Hurricane Cristobal at Narragansett Town Beach on Thursday, but the same couldn’t be said for lifeguards there.

“We had a couple of body boarders and a couple swimmers, the swimmers are certainly a primary concern because they don’t have any flotation with them, and we were able to get out to them, move them out of the dangerous water, and bring them back in,” said senior lifeguard captain Brian Guadagno.

Lifeguards are asking everyone to be extra vigilant this weekend, not just because of the rip currents, but because they claim they need more staff.

“I need patrons to know that swimming in between red flags is crucial because that’s where the lifeguards are,” said lifeguard Mark Euell. “The state only hires so many lifeguards for us at this one area and that number is not as high as it should be for the amount of area that we cover.”

RIP CURRENT SIGNLifeguards at Misquamicut Beach described rip currents as sandy, murky water, that foams at the top.

“The current rushes underneath and it sucks people out into the sea very very quickly,” Ferreria said.

Rip currents can form at any beach with breaking waves, and they can happen in all types of weather. They are most common near jetties and piers, in persistent on-shore winds and have large and frequent swells. These strong rip currents are due to Hurricane Cristobal, which is passing south and east of Southern New England, but is creating the powerful surf.

With speeds that can exceed six miles per hour, experts say even the most experienced swimmers can’t out-swim a rip current. But they can escape one.

If you find yourself in a rip current, experts say:

  • Stay calm.
  • Don’t fight the current.
  • Swim parallel to the coast until you are out of the current and then swim to the shore.
  • If you can’t reach the shore, wave your arms and yell for help.

In Rhode Island and Massachusetts, there weren’t any recent rip-current-related deaths from 1999-2013.

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