Headline for Featured Item #1 Professor with the Conrad Blucher Institute Leads Rip Current Study to Warn South Texas Beach-Goers - Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi
Texas A&M University Corpus Christi - Discover Your Island

Professor with the Conrad Blucher Institute Leads Rip Current Study to Warn South Texas Beach-Goers

July 24, 2012

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CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Dr. Philippe Tissot, associate professor of physics in the College of Science and Engineering, has led a research study on rip currents to help issue life-saving warnings to beach-goers along the South Texas Gulf Coast. Tissot also serves as assistant director of the Conrad Blucher Institute for Surveying and Science.

Dr. Tissot confirmed that rip currents regularly take place along the South Texas coast while conducting a Texas Sea Grant funded study. These strong channels of seaward flowing water within the backwash of waves can be particularly strong and dangerous during storms and frontal passages. The study, which emphasized the importance that man-made structures such as piers and jetties play in creating rip currents, included data on more than 160 cases of drowning and near-drowning on Nueces County and Cameron County beaches since 1983.

Rip currents have recently claimed the lives of swimmers in Florida and along the Texas Gulf Coast.  In June, the National Weather Service issued a “High Risk of Rip Currents” warning for Corpus Christi area beaches.

“While the strongest rip currents occur during the passage of a tropical storm, they can be extremely dangerous on any given day for swimmers who get too close to piers, jetties, seawalls and natural passages,” Tissot warned. “The majority of the area's most frequented beaches such as Port Aransas, Bob Hall Pier, and Isla Blanca all have the types of structures that can create hazardous surf conditions along an otherwise featureless coast by facilitating the generation of such currents.”

Rip currents, which are sometimes confused with rip tides or undertows, retreat along the path of least resistance, especially in areas where the strength of the waves have been weakened by jetties, piers, natural reefs,

and even large numbers of swimmers. They often look like muddy rivers flowing away from shore.

The problem is exacerbated by the fact that the majority of casual beach-goers in South Texas often visit beaches that include piers and jetties which help generate rip-like currents.  People who venture into the wrong waters can be quickly driven seaward with no chance of being able to swim directly against the rip current.

Rip currents are recognized by the National Weather Service as the leading surf hazard for beach-goers. The channeled force of the current can drag swimmers away from the shore at a rate of up to eight miles an hour.

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