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Dangers at the beach - how to spot trouble

Dangers at the beach - how to spot trouble

Credit: Jeremy C. Ruark, The Lincoln City News Guard

by KGW Meteorologist Rod Hill

Bio | Email | Follow: @kgwrodhill

Posted on July 12, 2013 at 8:15 AM

Updated Tuesday, Oct 29 at 9:28 PM

The beach is suppose to be fun, but can turn dangerous, and even deadly.  Here are a a few tips on spotting trouble and staying safe.

Rip currents account for more than 80 percent of rescues performed by surf lifeguards. They are powerful, channeled currents of water flowing away from shore that quickly pull swimmers out to sea. 

A rip current is distinguished by uncharacteristically smooth water located between breaking waves. They typically extend from the shoreline, through the surf zone and past the line of breaking waves. 

The best way to stay safe is to recognize the danger of rip currents.  If caught  in one, don't fight it. Swim parallel to the shore until you feel the current let go, and then swim back to land at an angle.  It is best to always swim at beaches with lifeguards on duty. 

When ocean waves break directly on the shore, it's called shorebreak.

Shorebreak conditions have caused serious injury and death to both experienced and inexperienced body surfers and swimmers. 

Both small and large waves can be equally unpredictable and dangerous when they break on shore. Shorebreaks typically form when there is a rapid transition from deep to shallow water.  The force can cause injuries.

Spinal cord injuries most often occur when diving headfirst into the water or being tumbled in the waves by the force of the water. 

Other well-known dangers include lightning, tsunamis, and of course excessive heat and sunburn.  Lightning since 2000 has killed an average of 38 people each year in the United Sates.   Remember, when thunder roars, you should take shelter indoors.  A good safety rule is to wait 30 minutes after you hear the last crackle of thunder before you return to the beach.


KGW Meteorologist Rod Hill, follow me @

Photos and safety information courtesy of the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration.