An ocean’s perils

July 14, 2013 

District Court Judge Mitchell McLean of Wilkes County died over the July Fourth weekend when he tried to save a woman caught in a rip current at Sunset Beach in North Carolina. It was a heroic effort on the judge’s part. Rip currents can be fierce, created when breaking waves try to make their way back to the ocean through channels between sand bars. The power of the water can overcome even the best swimmer.

In the Carolinas over that holiday weekend, seven people drowned in rip currents along the coastline. That’s a number near twice the average of deaths in a given year.

Brunswick County officials, on the North Carolina coast, say they’re thinking about adding beach warning flags and lifeguards. That sounds like a good idea there and elsewhere. The presence of lifeguards might have saved some victims.

Preventative measures are best. The ocean is beautiful, but swimming in it is for only the very best swimmers, and even they have to take precautions. Beach communities have to do the rest, and recent deaths are warning that more needs to be done.

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