North Carolina

Thief steals red warning flags in area where multiple people have drowned, NC cops say

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

Flags warning about rip current risks have gone missing on part of the North Carolina coast where several people recently drowned, officials say.

Two red flags were stolen from the beach overnight Sunday in Emerald Isle, the town’s police department announced on Facebook. Now, officials are asking for anyone with information or security camera footage to come forward.

“These flags need to be returned immediately,” police said on Facebook. “The flags serve an important purpose informing the public of the hazardous water conditions.”

In Emerald Isle, a single red flag warns of “dangerous rip current activity” and people shouldn’t swim, according to the town’s website.

UC Berkeley current oceanographer Francis Smith explains rip currents, how to avoid them, and how to escape them if pulled in.

Two red flags indicate the water poses a high risk to swimmers, and people caught in the ocean can be arrested or fined, the town says.

This week’s search for information about the two flags in Emerald Isle comes after multiple people drowned off the town’s shores this year, The News & Observer has reported.

Those who died were “two high school students from Wake Forest, a Marine stationed at Camp Lejeune” and a 48-year-old Jacksonville man, according to the report.

At least three of those people were caught in rip currents, which are “powerful, narrow channels of fast-moving water,” the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says.

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