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Volusia lifeguards saved 286 people over the Labor Day holiday. Will this weekend be a repeat?

Swimmers should keep their eyes open for red flags on Florida beaches that signal the high risk for powerful rip currents that increase a person’s risk of drowning.
Swimmers should keep their eyes open for red flags on Florida beaches this weekend. That means there could be powerful rip currents nearby.

Volusia County residents can expect dangerous rip currents through Monday as Hurricane Lee heads toward the East Coast and Canada.

Swimmers should keep their eyes open for red flags on Florida beaches that signal there could be rip currents nearby.

County officials say Hurricane Lee will not only bring high surf, but dangerous rip currents to local beaches this weekend.

Volusia County Beach Safety Deputy Chief Tammy Malphurs said families should keep a close eye on children and swim near lifeguard towers.

“A lot of people tend to underestimate the power of a rip current even the strongest swimmers get caught in rip currents," said Malphurs. "That's why it's so important for people to know you know it's not like swimming in a lake or a pool.”

In general, she recommended following these tips for staying safe:

“When you get to the beach for the day talk to that lifeguard. They will tell you what you need to do to be safe for the day," said Malphurs. "It's extremely important that you're in front of a lifeguard. If there's not a lifeguard on duty, do not go in the water.”

Lifeguards had to pull 286 people out of the ocean over Labor Day Weekend because of rip currents.

If you find yourself stuck in a rip current the National Weather Service has the following tips:

  • "Relax. Rip currents don't pull you under.
  • A rip current is a natural treadmill that travels an average speed of 1-2 feet per second, but has been measured as fast as 8 feet per second, faster than an Olympic swimmer. Trying to swim against a rip current will only use up your energy, energy you need to survive and escape the rip current.
  • Do not try to swim directly into shore. Swim along the shoreline until you escape the current's pull. When free from the pull of the current, swim at an angle away from the current toward shore.
  • If you feel you can't reach shore, relax, face the shore, and call or wave for help."

Download the Volusia County Beaches app for real-time updates on swimming conditions.

Swimmers should also be on the lookout for sharks. This week, a surfer was bit on the face by a shark at New Smyrna Beach, often called the "Shark Bite Capital" of the world, another reason to swim near lifeguards this weekend. Two others were bitten over Labor Day holiday and two more in July.

Danielle Prieur is WMFE's education reporter.
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