Rip Currents, an Underrated Danger, Have Been More Deadly Than Tornadoes and Lightning This Year

May 8, 2018
Rip Current

By Chris Dolce | May 7, 2018 |

Sun and relaxation might be your top priority when heading for the beach, but there is one more thing to have on the top of your mind: rip currents.

Rip currents are strong but narrow currents that flow away from the beach and pose a threat to all swimmers when they form. Rip currents can develop at any beach with breaking waves.

Large-scale weather disasters such as tornadoes and hurricanes create headlines when it comes to deadly weather events. Rip currents, however, can be just as dangerous and contribute to a large number of deaths each year, many of them flying under the radar of the news media.

The most recent rip current death occurred over the weekend on Florida's Atlantic coast where one person drowned at Cocoa Beach.

In total, eight people have now lost their lives in rip currents in the U.S during 2018. Florida has the most with four, followed by two in Texas and one each in Alabama and the U.S. western Pacific territory Guam.

This year's rip current toll more than doubles the three tornado deaths that have been documented so far this year in the U.S. It's also four times the number of lightning-related deaths, which stands at two through the first week of May.

Rip currents have killed more people annually than tornadoes from 2014-2017, so this year is not an outlier. Three of the last four years have also had more rip current fatalities than lightning and tornadoes combined.

Rip current deaths have been tracked by the National Weather Service (NWS) on an annual basis only since 2013, so long-term averages are unknown. In the last four years, however, the U.S. has averaged 65 rip current fatalities per year.

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