Chicago beachgoers on surviving rip currents

August 10, 2012

Scott Kanowsky

flickr/KRothermel
Officials are warning swimmers to watch out for rip currents in Lake Michigan.

Officials are warning swimmers to watch out for the strong underwater pull of rip currents in Lake Michigan.

The National Weather Service has issued a rip current warning for the Chicago area until Saturday evening. Rip currents occur when a current goes into the shore and then bounces back seaward. This carries a particular risk to swimmers who could be caught in the current and thrown into deeper waters.

So we posed a question to Chicago beachgoers: What do you do if you’re caught in a rip current?

Here's a few of their responses:

What is a Rip Current?

(WikiCommons/National Weather Service, Wilmington, NC)

A rip current occurs when a strong channel of water reaches the shore, then flows seaward.

►"I don't know try to float and [come] back to the shore."

►"I'd start taking off my clothes and put my hand up in the air so hopefully someone would see it."

►"Float, flip, float and stay parallel to the water."

►"What's a rip current?"

►"You kind of just relax for a minute.  And you're supposed to swim parallel to the ocean until you kind of get yourself together and get help. I believe."

►"I'd [start] to scream 'Help me, I'm here!' I don't know. I can't believe [I would] be there."

►"Swim parallel to the current, don't swim against it. Don't swim with it, stay parallel to the shore."

►"I wouldn't know the answer to that question, actually."

►"Well, you shouldn't be in the water to begin with. But if you're stuck, you just follow the water out and wait until the rip tide stops and then swim parallel to the beach and when it's calm you come back in."

Chicago Park District confirms that swimmers should not fight the current and, yes, swim parallel to the shore.