Tropical Storm Arthur brings rip current threat to Grand Strand

Tropical Storm Arthur may not have a huge impact on the Grand Strand, but it will cause dangerous rip currents in the ocean.

James and Cherry Martin of Durham, North Carolina are taking no chances this weekend.

They enjoy spending time on the beach, but will stay out of the water because of their fear of rip currents.

"I know that if one comes in, it'll sweep you back out to sea and it's hard to swim out of it, and I'm not a good enough swimmer to swim out of it, so I plan to play it safe," said Cherry Martin.

A rip current is a powerful channel of water that can quickly pull swimmers away from shore.

Even the strongest swimmers cannot defeat it.

"If you try to swim straight back in on the rip, you'll become exhausted, at the point you'll eventually pass out in the water," said Duke Brown, beach safety director for Horry County Beach Patrol.

If you get caught in a rip current, don't try to fight it, Brown said. Instead, swim out of the current and then parallel to the shore.

Or, you can just float on your back and wave your arms to signal for assistance.

Brown said beach goers should be aware that some places are more prone to rip currents than others.

"You normally will also see rips around structures that are out in the water such as piers or outcroppings of rocks," he said.

Swimmers also need to watch the flags at lifeguard stations.

A blue aquatic hazard flag means you shouldn't go out any farther than waist deep. A red flag means don't go in the water at all.

Brown said it's best to stay close to a lifeguard station, and to know your limitations as a swimmer.

"It's not like swimming in your lake or backyard pool, or neighborhood pool. The ocean has currents, it has waves," Brown said.

The rip current threat will likely reach its peak Thursday, but Brown said the currents can be deadly even a day or so after the storm passes.

Officials say one person had to be rescued by lifeguards in Myrtle Beach Wednesday.

A recent study showed an average of 35 people die of rip currents in the U.S. each year.