Beachgoers In Southeast Texas Should Be Aware Of Rip Currents This Weekend

Three siblings drowned Thursday in Galveston Bay. Officials are looking at whether choppy water and undercurrents were a factor.

The National Weather Service has issued a rip current advisory for Southeast Texas that’s in effect until 8 p.m. Friday and could extend through the weekend. It’s prompted the Galveston Island Beach Patrol to issue a red flag warning, since high temperatures in that region are likely to send more people go to the beach this weekend.

Rip currents can occur at any beach with breaking waves and most often form at low spots or breaks in sandbars and near structures like piers, jetties and docks.

Research from Texas A & M University shows that breaks in the pattern of incoming waves and channels of choppy water often signal rip currents.

Meteorologist Jimmy Fowler with the National Weather Service said that beach-goers should follow the advice of lifeguards and swim near their posts. The chances of drowning at a beach with lifeguards are 1 in 18 million, according to the U.S. Lifesaving Association.

Southeast Texas is currently under a heat advisory and Fowler noted that Galveston this week had a heat index of up to 117 degrees, “so there’s a lot of people trying to get into the ocean to cool off.”

He said that if someone gets caught in a current, it's best not to swim against it. “That’s a very quick way to exhaust yourself,” Fowler said. Instead, he recommended swimming parallel to the shore and swim back to shore after it feels the current’s gone.

Another option is to float in the current, wait for it to weaken and then swim back to the shore.

This week rough waters and currents could have contributed to the deaths of three siblings who drowned and a fourth who was rescued from Galveston Bay.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said the fatal accident occurred near Sylvan Beach Park in La Porte. Officials are investigating if choppy water and undercurrents or a wave from a passing boat contributed to the deaths of the youngsters.

Gonzalez said searchers recovered the bodies of a 7-year-old boy, his 10-year-old brother and a 13-year-old sister. A park patron saved the fourth child.

Learn more about how to spot a rip current with this free training from the National Weather Service.

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