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High rip current risk this weekend along Florida's Gulf beaches

A combination of a cold front moving across Florida this weekend and winds predominantly out of the south to southwest through Sunday, is bringing dangerous and life threatening rip currents along Florida’s Gulf Coast.

The National Weather Service says there is a High Risk for rip currents along Florida’s panhandle from Pensacola over to Alligator Point through Sunday. A high risk for rip currents means life threatening rip currents are likely. The combination of southwest waves and the strengthening sea breeze will increase wave heights and heighten the rip current risk. The outgoing tides will also add to the rip current risk.

Rip currents are powerful, channeled currents of water flowing away from shore. They typically extend from the shoreline, through the surf zone, and past the line of breaking waves. Rip currents can occur at any beach with breaking waves. Never assume the ocean is safe, even if the weather is nice

Cody Lindsey with the National Weather Service in Mobile, Alabama says always be aware of your surroundings before you head into the water.

If you become caught in a rip current, the NWS says turn sideways to the shore, and wade or swim until you are out of the rip current. Then move back toward shore at an angle away from the rush of water.

As we approach the Memorial Day weekend next week, and the hot Florida summer months, the NWS says swimmers need to be extra cautious along our beaches. Especially when storms or even distant hurricanes can increase the wave activity.

The National Weather Service says over the next several days, the Gulf surf zone is dangerous for all levels of swimmers. Stay out of the water. And remember to heed the advice of the local beach patrol and flag warning systems. For maximum safety, always swim near a lifeguard.