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Swimming in dangerous riptides in NC beach town could cost you money — and your life

The science of rip currents

Rip currents are powerful, narrow channels of fast-moving water that are prevalent along the East, Gulf, and West coasts of the U.S. Moving at speeds of up to eight feet per second, rip currents can move faster than an Olympic swimmer. Lifeguards
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Rip currents are powerful, narrow channels of fast-moving water that are prevalent along the East, Gulf, and West coasts of the U.S. Moving at speeds of up to eight feet per second, rip currents can move faster than an Olympic swimmer. Lifeguards

Swimmers in the ocean during dangerous rip currents could face arrest or a $100 fine in one North Carolina town.

Emerald Isle for the first time this year is using a double-red flag warning system to inform beachgoers of high risks in the water, Spectrum News reports.

The warning system comes as three people have drowned off the town’s shores this spring, WCTI reports.

Last month, Wake Forest High School seniors Ian Frazier Lewis and Mary Paige Merical were caught in a rip current near Emerald Isle, The News & Observer previously reported.

Lewis was swept away, and police found his body after a weekend-long search. Merical, who goes by the name Paige, was rescued, but her family later announced they would take her off life support.

On May 4, Justin A. Hinds, a U.S. Marine stationed at Camp Lejeune, was pulled from the water and died, according to The Charlotte Observer.

Emerald Isle’s new water safety system was planned before the deaths, Carolina Coast Online reports. The two red flags will indicate swimming isn’t allowed off beaches and warn of an “’extreme’ high risk” of rip currents, according to the website.

People who violate the new warnings could be arrested or fined $100, according to WNCT.

“It’s good to have another system in order to keep these people out of the water because it really, down the chain, keeps people safe,” Ryan Taylor, an Emerald Isle lifeguard, told Spectrum News.

The town in the past used a single red flag as the highest warning for dangerous conditions on the water, WCTI reports.

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