Surf City fire chief says tropical storms causing increase in rip current rescues

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Surf City pier May 2020 (Photo: WWAY)

PENDER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — Surf City ocean rescue is seeing an increase in calls rip current rescues with more than a dozen calls just this week.

Surf City ocean rescue has responded to more than a dozen rip current rescues in the last three days after seeing an increase in calls over the last two weeks.

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About twenty minutes after doing an interview with WWAY’s Hannah Patrick Friday at 9 a.m. about the increase in calls, Surf City Fire Chief Allen Wilson had to respond to another two calls to rescue three people from rip currents in the 400 block of North Shore Drive.

Wilson believes the two tropical storms that recently passed off the Carolina coast created more rip currents in the area.

“We’ve developed a nice little sand bar off the coast, about 100 yards off shore, but unfortunately that’s kind of where those rips start,” Wilson said. “When Tropical Storm Arthur came through, you know, it was far enough off the beach, but it really kind of worked some of our sandbars and created some of those rips we haven’t seen in the past, so you know, we’ve seen them again this week with Bertha down to the south. We do believe those storms have affected our water flow.”

Wilson said they have had to rescue about 10 to 15 people from the water this week. Wilson said in some cases, a family member tries to help a struggling swimmer, and then becomes victim to the rip current too.

“It’s hard to sit back and wait while somebody is having trouble in the water. You have to weigh your own competencies in the water in order to make that decision,” Wilson said.

If you get caught in a rip current, Wilson said you do not want to swim against the current back to the shore.

“Swim parallel to the beach. Don’t try to turn around and swim straight back towards the beach ’cause you’re just going to swim into the current and that’s going to be hard for you. You’ve got to swim parallel to the beach to get out of that current,” Wilson said.

Surf City does not have life guards on the beach, but Wilson said they do have an active ocean rescue force.

“There have been discussions in the past for lifeguards, but right now we are going to continue with our ocean rescue service,” Wilson said.