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Jun 11, 2013 11:38 PM by Erin Steuber

How to Recognize and Survive Rip Currents

At least four men have drowned in dangerous rip currents in Gulf Shores, Alabama. One of the victims was vacationing from Bossier City. All four were reported missing by friends or relatives after they disappeared in the surf. Rescue crews say, while the water appears calm, rip currents can pull swimmers underwater and out to sea. Every year rip currents cause more than 100 people to drown, but there are ways to recognize the currents and survive them.

For 13 years Victoria Barczyk has been a competitive distance swimmer. Last week her team went on an annual trip to gulf shores for training, and even she admits the current was too much for her to handle.

"It was actually very scary and I could see if I would have stopped trying I could have gotten taken out, even drowned," said Barczyk.

Within the last week those rip currents have claimed at least 4 lives. Rip currents pull water out to sea at speeds of up to eight feet per second and can move faster than an olympic swimmer, but if you get caught you can survive them.

"If you ever get caught in a rip current just relax, the key thing is to relax and not to panic," said Barczyk. "Swim parallel to the shore until the rip current is done and then just swim back to the shore. It's best to do it on your back and just float and let it take you at first and then swim back in."

You can not always see rip currents, but there are a few ways to identify them:

* a channel of churning, choppy water

* an area having a notable difference in water color

* a line of foam, seaweed, or debris moving steadily seaward

* a break in the incoming wave pattern

But no matter the water conditions, never swim alone.

"If the red flags are up do not go into the water that's the main thing," said Tony Credeur with the Red Cross. "Just follow the directions that are there and just listen to the lifeguards. Always try to swim where there are lifeguards."

Easy advice to keep your family safe. If you have anymore questions there are several resources you can check out through the Red Cross and NOAA.

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