Rip Currents, Stingrays Expected at SoCal Beaches Independence Day Weekend

A National Weather Service warning is in effect from Friday through the holiday weekend

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Dangerous currents, stingrays and big crowds will keep Southern California lifeguards busy over the Independence Day weekend. Hetty Chang reports from Huntington Beach for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Thursday, July 3, 2014. (Published Thursday, Jul 3, 2014)

    Californians who plan beat the heat this Fourth of July weekend by hitting the beach should be aware of increased chances of rip currents and stingrays along the coast.

    The National Weather Service issued a warning to beachgoers about dangerous rip currents in Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties that can pull swimmers out to sea. The warning is in effect from Independence Day through the holiday weekend.

    An increased number of rip currents is expected to be accompanied with elevated surf on south-facing beaches.

    "On a busy weekend, we'll get upwards 100 rescues per beach," lifeguard Diego Busatto said. "The best way to describe (a rip current) is like a river in the water."

    Signs of rip current include a difference in water color, channel of churning, choppy water or changes in the incoming wave pattern. The dangerous conditions are prompted by a swell that causes riptides when it retreats from the shoreline.

    About 100 people die each year in the United States due to rip currents, weather officials said.

    Swimmers are also being cautioned not to go out into the ocean after drinking alcohol. The CDC found among adolescents and adults, alcohol use is involved in up to 70 percent of deaths associated with water recreation.

    If caught in a rip current the National Weather Service advises to stay calm and not swim against the current. Instead, swim alongside the shore at an angle until you make it back to dry land.

    If the current is too strong to escape, tread water and let it pull you out until the current weakens or until you can alert a lifeguard. To help someone who is caught in a rip current, don't try to save them. Tell a lifeguard or throw them a floatation device.

    Closer to shore is another danger: stingrays.

    "I stepped on something kind of jiggly. I felt a stabbing, hot knife pain in my foot," beachgoer Tom Toledo said. "I got to the beach and then it just went completely numb. Then I couldn't even move."

    Toledo was one of more than 80 people stung at SoCal beaches on Thursday.

    If you see a stingray, do the "stingray shuffle" by shuffling your feet back and forth on the ocean floor.

    Hetty Chang contributed to this report.

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