Lifeguards urge people to stay out of the water when the red flag is out

Lifeguards urge people to stay out of the water when the red flag is out
Published: Jun. 23, 2023 at 5:44 PM EDT
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CAROLINA BEACH, N.C. (WECT) - Red flag warnings remain in effect for much of the Carolina coast.

Lifeguards urge people to stay out of the water and provided tips for how to make it to shore safely if you find yourself stuck in a rip current.

Even on the calmest of days, rip currents can be the strongest and most deceptive from the shore. Last weekend in Carolina Beach, it was sunny skies, but even then, the lifeguards were kept on their toes. Carolina Beach lifeguards averaged about 100 saves and they’re expecting just as many this weekend.

Mia Hulgin, the head lifeguard for Carolina Beach Ocean Rescue, is urging beachgoers to stay out of the water on red flag days, especially where the water might look easier to swim in.

“Generally, people want to swim where it looks like it’s calmer because the waves aren’t breaking. But that’s the danger zone where that rip current actually is. So, you want to stay where those waves are breaking more consistently, in that rougher type of water than in that calm area where that rip is,” said Hulgin.

Southeastern North Carolina has limited beaches with lifeguards on watch. If you do see one you’re urged to ask them where the rip currents are and the risk level before jumping in.

Karen Ingram, a mom of young children, chooses to visit Carolina Beach because of the extra pair of eyes watching her kids.

“I do worry about it. I’m really thankful that we’re on a beach with lifeguards. They have quite the job to do. We just told our kids that they have to be super aware and that they can’t go any further than the shoreline,” said Ingram.

Hulgin says that what may seem like a simple task can be the one thing to help you survive.

“The number one rule is don’t panic. So, if you’re caught in a rip current, you might get pulled out a little bit more, it’s very hard to come in, just don’t panic. Floating is always good. You’re never gonna drown if you can float, and then you want to swim diagonally to shore, generally going with the longshore current. So, you’re swimming right out of that rip current, and then parallel with the shore diagonally into it,” said Hulgin.

Knowing how to stay afloat and calm can be the difference between life and death.

To put it into perspective, when you’re standing in shin-deep water and the waves are crashing at your hips, it could take a split second to be swept away from the current. But keeping these tips that we just went over in the back of your mind can make all the difference.