By The Star Staff
The National Weather Service (NWS) in San Juan is warning of a high risk of dangerous rip currents on the northwest and northeast coasts of Puerto Rico and Culebra, effective through Friday afternoon.
Affected beaches will face life-threatening rip currents due to the heavy surf, with breaking waves between six and eight feet, and occasionally higher, the NWS said.
Rip currents are powerful, fast-moving channels of water that flow offshore and can drag even the most experienced swimmers away from shore into deeper water, making it difficult for them to return. The NWS emphasizes the importance of following the recommendations of lifeguards and heeding beach patrol flags and signs. Rip currents most often occur at low points or breaks in the sand barrier and near structures such as jetties and piers.
Later on Tuesday, Bureau for Emergency Management and Disaster Administration Commissioner Nino Correa Filomeno followed up on the NWS’ warnings and offered details of several emergency situations that occurred over the weekend, such as the rescue of three people in Playa Escondida in Fajardo, and the recovery on Monday of the body of a 25-year-old man at the same site.
Correa Filomeno outlined “at least six situations” over the weekend in which people had to be rescued from the water and the loss of more lives was avoided, including incidents in Isabela, Ocean Park in San Juan, Río Grande, Loíza and Ceiba.
In case you are caught in a rip current, the NWS advises calling for help and staying calm, avoiding exhaustion and staying afloat while waiting for assistance. If possible, swim parallel to the shore and back toward the beach, but do not try to swim directly against the rip current, as this can quickly lead to exhaustion.