High rip current risk has experts urging everyone to stay out of the water

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – The National Weather Service says there will be a high rip current risk Wednesday and Thursday for all beaches in Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia.

With the Juneteenth holiday, more people are expected at the beach, but experts urge that even if you’re tempted to cool off, you’re safer staying out of the water.

Red flags were up at Vilano Beach and Jacksonville Beach on Wednesday, signaling the high rip current risk, which means the surf is dangerous for all levels of swimmers.

Jacksonville Beach Ocean Rescue Lieutenant Kevin Mackey said, “We have rip currents and a strong long shore current, and right now it’s pretty rough out there.”

Lifeguards are patrolling the shores closely in Jacksonville Beach, calling people out of dangerous waters.

“We’re looking for people swimming in rip currents. We’re doing truck patrols every hour. We have a few lifeguard towers out there and they’re informing us when people are getting in the water in rip currents,” Mackey said.

Most were hesitant to swim in the ocean waters Wednesday, but Tony Cavallo says he looks out for red flag warnings because the conditions are ideal for kiteboarding.

He still makes a point to watch for rip currents.

“It is a perfect day for kiteboarding,” Cavallo said. “You can feel [the rip currents] on the kiteboard, it’s real evident as we go through and we slide out because they are periodical. So, there’s like one over there and like a little baby one here.”

If you do decide to swim, here’s how you can spot rip currents:

  • Channel of churning, choppy water
  • Change in water color
  • Line of seaweed, foam and other debris
  • Break in the incoming wave pattern

If you’re ever caught in a rip current, you should:

  • Not panic: Don’t fight it, stay calm, try to float
  • Always swim with the current parallel to the shore
  • Face the shore and yell for help

Also, it’s important to swim near the area where a lifeguard is stationed so you can see them and they can see you.

Meteorologist Mark Collins did a great demonstration and explanation of what to do if you ever find yourself in a rip current.

About the Author

Tiffany comes home to Jacksonville, FL from WBND in South Bend, Indiana. She went to Mandarin High School and UNF. Tiffany is a former WJXT intern, and joined the team in 2023 as Consumer Investigative Reporter and member of the I-TEAM.

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