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State Park Enhances Rip-Current Awareness

Nov 10, 2013

Rip currents remain a threat for beachgoers at the South Carolina coast, but now Hunting Island State Park is taking steps to enhance safety for their guests.

Michael Slattery, the S.C. Sea Grant Consortium’s coastal processes extension specialist based at Coastal Carolina University, has developed rip-current educational materials, including a public talk for park guests and community members, and a follow-up training session for ranger staff.

In his public talk, Slattery explained to beachgoers how to recognize and avoid rip currents.

“I tell beachgoers to look for features that can generate rip currents,” says Slattery. “For instance, any structures that are perpendicular to the coast (groins, jetties, and piers) frequently have rip currents form right alongside them. Also, a sandbar running parallel to the coast might not be solid. It might have channels that cut through the bar. At low points in the bar, rip currents are common. If you can avoid these physical structures, you can avoid most rip currents.”

Slattery recommends using polarized sunglasses to increase your chances of seeing both the sandbar and any channels through the bar that may have a strong rip current.

In his training sessions at Hunting Island State Park, Slattery described how rangers could educate the public about rip currents and what their role should be in case of a rip-current emergency. The S.C. Sea Grant Consortium has provided rip-current signage for each of Hunting Island’s beach access locations and many other locations along the South Carolina coast.

Slattery will continue offering public seminars at Hunting Island State Park in 2014. He will also offer further training to rangers so they can provide public educational talks on a more regular basis.