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Tropical storm triggers surf warning in Ventura County

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Rip currents are not easy to spot and are even harder to get out of. Here’s how to avoid and swim (the right way) out of a rip current.
Just the FAQs, USA TODAY

Visitors to Ventura County beaches may want to be cautious due to high surf through Tuesday, according to forecasts from the National Weather Service.

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The forecast warns of swells reaching heights off 3 to 6 feet along south-facing beaches in Ventura and Los Angeles counties. The period of high surf was expected to begin Saturday night, peak between Sunday morning and Monday morning, and last through Tuesday morning.

The cause is a southeast swell from Tropical Storm Ivo along Baja California, according to Kristen Stewart, a meteorologist with the weather agency.

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The public is advised to stay out of the water during high surf and when they do go into the water, do so only near lifeguards who are on duty.

The risk of rip currents, longshore currents and sneaker waves are heightened during periods of high surf. Localized flooding may also occur along low coastal areas such as parking lots, roads and walkways.

What to do in a rip current

Rip currents occur in bodies of water with breaking waves; they are channels of water that flow at a faster pace than the surrounding area. Swimmers who are caught in rip currents can get sucked away at speeds of up to 8 feet per second, far too fast for many swimmers to make it safely back to shore.

The National Weather Service and other websites post warnings about high chances of rip currents, so swimmers almost always have ample warning that rip currents are possible or are occurring.

If that happens to you, experts say you should remain calm and swim parallel to the shoreline, which is perpendicular to the current. Or just go with the flow and ride out the rip current, saving your energy for the swim back to shore. 

Don’t become a victim by trying to save someone. If you see someone caught in a rip current, get help from a lifeguard, if available. Call 911 for further assistance.  

Falk Feddersen, professor of physical oceanography at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, said that when people are not strong swimmers, they tend to panic and try to swim against the current, which results in exhaustion and drowning.

He recommended simply bobbing with the water until you make it back to shore or you are away from the active parts of the rip current.

“Once you’re away from the active current, you can swim back to shore,” he said.

Contributing: USA TODAY

Jeremy Childs is a breaking news and public safety reporter covering the night shift for the Ventura County Star. He can be reached by calling 805-437-0208 or emailing jeremy.childs@vcstar.com.

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