How to spot and escape rip currents

Posted: 7:43 PM, Jun 28, 2016
Updated: 2016-06-29 07:43:07-04

"They just pop out of nowhere and you don't always know that you're actually in them until you're like all the way out," Madison Evans said.

When the Mid-Michigan native was younger, she got sucked into a rip current in Lake Michigan.

"I didn't know what it was at the time, so I was a little freaked out," Evans explained. "And, they're really strong, so it is kind of hard to push yourself out of 'em."

But, Evans got out just fine because she did exactly what the U.S. Coast Guard recommends swimmers do.

"We want them to stay calm and wave their arms if they can to get everybody's attention. And then float," Boatswain Mate 1st Class Dustin McClelland said. "Once you get floated out away from the rip current, swim at an angle in towards shore."

Whatever you do, don't try to swim against it.

"Because you'll get that much more tired and possibly drown," he said. "The average rip current travels almost 8 feet per second; so, that's a lot faster than anybody can swim."

And he added that rip currents are more likely to form closer to the pier and in windy conditions like we're seeing today - rain or shine.

"Talk to the local lifeguards, talk to local state park rangers, talk to coast guard stations. Find out if there is going to be a rip current expected," McClelland suggested.

You can also check the flags on the beach.

Red signals strong currents, yellow is moderate and green indicates calm conditions.

McClellan said, "People think it's fun, but it's extremely dangerous. We just want people to be safe. If you're gonna go play in the waves, wear a life jacket. Swim near a lifeguard."

The Coast Guard told us it'll be all hands on deck this weekend. The team will have a number of boats out on the water, along with the Sheriff's Department.

And, for additional safety resources, you can download the United States Coast Guard App at

From the app, you can report any hazards or suspicious activity or file a "float plan" with family and friends to let them know where you'll be.