Officials raise red flag warnings at local beaches due to high rip current risk


VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – Storms churning offshore are making an angry sea, bringing high waves and a strong threat of rip currents.

That’s why red flags are flying in Virginia Beach and in parts of the Outer Banks.

In the town of Nags Head they have posted ‘No Swimming’ red flags.

And it’s hard to miss the red flags flying at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront.

There were hundreds of people out Monday at the Oceanfront enjoying some fun in the sun, but officials ask beachgoers to pay close attention to their surroundings.

Elisa Hulton is not from the area, but has a pretty good idea of what they mean.

“That’s telling you that the water is dangerous today,” said Hulton. “I guess you can go in but it’s risky.”

Captain Marc Levine with the Virginia Beach Lifesaving Service says she is exactly right. Like it says on the flag, the water is dangerous and when you hear a whistle be sure to pay attention.

“Typically they’ve recognized that either the swimmer is out too far or they may be in a dangerous spot where there is a rip current and they want them to move over and out of that area so they don’t get pulled out,” said Levine.

But how do you know if you’re stuck in one and what do you do?

The Dare County Emergency Management shared a video to show you the best way to stay safe.

“If you find yourself caught in a rip current, don’t panic. Float, wave, and shout until help arrives. If you’re a good swimmer, don’t fight the rips. Swim parallel to beach until you get free.”

Elisa is not risking it, but hopes anyone else who is, is being smart.

“It scares me because he’s already had to call a couple of people in already. I don’t want to see anyone drown or anything. I’m sure it’s happened though.”

Officials tell 10 On Your Side they are thankful. So far this week and past weekend they haven’t had to make any rescues, but they are staying on full alert because they say this has been one of their busiest seasons in a long time and they only expect for it to get busier.

The Town of Nags Head’s Fire and Rescue Department is posting “No Swimming” red flags on Nags Head’s beach due to choppy conditions, large swell, and the high threat of rip currents.

A posted red flag means swimming in the Atlantic Ocean is prohibited until dangerous conditions subside and the red flags are lowered. 

Swimming means any entry into the Atlantic Ocean, whether assisted by a raft, an inflatable device, or anything similar in nature. 

Those using surfboards that are fiberglass and foam, which are at least five feet long, with at least one fin and a leash, may enter the water. The same is true for those using a body board and fins (not SCUBA fins) that consist of a foam core encapsulated by a durable hard plastic bottom, a foam top deck, and foam side rails.

The core of the body board must be made of polyethylene or polypropylene that incorporates stringers for rigidity.

A durable coiled leash must be attached securely to the front of the board. However, those using Styrofoam boards or boards affixed with a nylon mesh cover and woven cord leash are not allowed into the water. 

In case of ocean related emergencies, dial 911. 

For more information, contact Nags Head Fire and Rescue at 252.441.5909.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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