The National Weather Service has announced a high risk of rip currents Wednesday through Friday along the Gulf Coast in Florida and Alabama.

A persistent moderate to strong southeasterly wind flow will cause an increased danger of rip currents affecting Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Escambia, Baldwin and lower Mobile counties, according to the National Weather Service Watch Warnings.

The rip currents can be life threatening.

"Be watchful for breaks in the surf line where an increasing rip current may occur," according to NOAA.

Rip currents are powerful channels of water flowing quickly away from shore, which occurs most often at low spots or breaks in the sandbar and in the vicinity of structures such as piers and jetties.

If someone gets caught in a rip currents, the NOAA advices individuals not to panic. Swimmers must remain calm and swim parrallel to shore.

Once the individual is away from the force of the rip current they can begin to swim back to shore. No one should attempt to swim directly against the rip current. Even strong swimmers can become exhausted quickly.

The watch went into effect at 7 a.m. Wednesday and will last through Friday evening, according to NOAA.


Flag Warning System:

Double Red Flag: Water is closed to public (dangerous water conditions)
Red Flag: High Hazard (high surf and/or strong currents)
Yellow Flag: Medium Hazard (moderate surf and/or currents)
Green Flag: Low Hazard (calm conditions, exercise caution)
Purple Flag: Marine Pests Present (jellyfish, stingrays, dangerous fish)


How To Identify A Rip Current

One or more of the following features indicate the presence of a rip current:

Darker color surf, indicating deeper water
Murky brown water caused by sand stirred up on the bottom
Smaller unorganized waves, alongside more evenly breaking waves over a sand bar
Waves breaking further out to sea on both sides of the rip current

What To Do If You See Someone Else Caught In A Rip Current:

Notify a lifeguard
Have someone call 911, give accurate landmarks
Do not enter the water, you too will be caught in the current
Throw them a flotation device
Try not to lose sight of the victim

What To Do If Youíre Caught In A Rip Current:

Donít panic or swim against the current
Relax, float with the current until it dissipates
Swim parallel to shore and back in

Of course the best way to avoid a rip current is to know the surf conditions before entering the water.