High risk for rip currents across South Florida

Posted at 12:33 AM, Jan 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-17 00:33:39-05

It was a dangerous day to be in the water.

There's a high risk for rip currents right now all along the South Florida coasts and it can be deadly if you're not careful.
"That's what makes the worst conditions when it comes from straight east," Mike “Gator” Saumell, an ocean lifeguard for the City of Lake Worth.
Many areas of the beach have been closed off to swimmers. This has been the norm for lifeguards lately.
"Three weeks now we've had these prevailing winds and when that happens it stirs up the ocean out there," said Samuell. "We try to stay proactive and extra vigilant."
Samuell says his team is lucky to only have made a few minor rescues in Lake Worth lately.

"We're ready for it, just to be proactive. Got the red flag up like we said, so it's keeping everybody very close,” he said.

Rip currents are very unpredictable.
"It's unpredictable because it happens off the edge of a sandbar, where it goes from very shallow and very deep. So someone could be simply walking into this trough of water that's moving back out,"said Samuell. "We have our areas that are pretty consistent for our rip currents so we pay more attention to those and monitor people, and not allow them to go into those danger zones."
But there's even more concern around piers. There are several located near popular beaches throughout Palm Beach County.
"Each one is going to have a similar rip current on both sides because it's a standing structure. So is water is rushing past those columns on both sides kind of edges and makes it really deep,” he said.
But for local surfers the water is just right.
"We don't really get much waves so when we do get conditions like this, we're pretty pumped,” said local surfer Nicola Lugo. “If you're not a strong swimmer, you could easily get sucked out and into the rip current and not know what to do — and it could turn ugly real quick.”

Luke Connell, 11, took advantage of Monday’s waves to practice his surfing technique after recently learning to surf.
"Waves are really rough today. It's really crazy out there,” he said. "Hoping I get a big wave and surf right in."
Many parents kept a watchful eye on their kids, too.
"Well for the surfers it's great... But for the kids going in, it's a little scary,” said Lake Worth resident Perri Teitelbaum. "My son wants to go in, but I prefer that he doesn't."

Alexis Caraballo, who is visiting from South Carolina, was knocked over by the waves.
“Water was chest high and of course I lost my glasses. Waves are strong enough it'll knock you down,” he said.
And the rough surf doesn't look like it's stopping any time soon.
"This is the time of year when we get waves and rougher conditions,” said Samuell. "This looks to be continuing for the next few days still."