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How to get out of a rip current

People should recall the tragedy that occurred in August 2003 along the public beach on Park Point when one person drowned and but for some heroic efforts, seven others might have also died. A steady wind blew from the northeast for most of the day and three- to four-foot waves hit the shoreline head-on, or perpendicular to shore, and set up conditions that produced what appears to be a classic example of a rip current.

Read Minnesota Sea Grant information about rip currents in Lake Superior and details about the Summer 2003 tragedy.

Michigan Sea Grant recently produced an outstanding article on the dangers of rip currents in Lake Michigan. Although much less is known about such currents in Lake Superior, the information is just as relevant.

A free brochure is also available at the Michigan Sea Grant website.

Rip Current Myth

A rip current is a horizontal current. Rip currents do not pull people under the water–-they pull people away from shore. Drowning deaths occur when people pulled offshore are unable to keep themselves afloat and swim to shore. This may be due to any combination of fear, panic, exhaustion, or lack of swimming skills.

In some regions rip currents are referred to by other, incorrect terms such as rip tides and undertow. We encourage exclusive use of the correct term – rip currents. Use of other terms may confuse people and negatively impact public education efforts.

from the National Weather Service -- much more information on their site.


Beginning in 2005, the National Weather Service will issue a rip current advisory when an elevated risk of rip currents exists in Duluth. See the article from the 3/12/05 Duluth News Tribune for details.

Best practices to prevent drowning
Drowning ranks as the second leading cause of unintentional injury death for children ages 1 to 14 and in Minnesota 15 to19 year-old males have the highest drowning rates. Visit the MN Department of Health and the MN DNR for good information that may save your life, a friend's life or a loved one's life.

Other good links:

Safe Kids
Injury Prevention Web