Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Avoid rip currents to stay safe on Pinellas beaches

CLEARWATER — Two drownings last week in northern Pinellas County served as grim reminders that some of the country's most picturesque beaches also can be deadly.

Largo resident Isam Rizkallah, 58, jumped from his boat June 10 near Honeymoon Island to rescue his dog. Three days later Gainesville, Ga., resident Ryan Terry drowned 30 yards off Clearwater Beach, near Idlewild Street. In both cases, officials cited strong currents as a factor in their deaths.

The full moon and subsequent new moon last week made high and low tides more exaggerated, said Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officer Baryl Martin. That creates bigger currents.

Clearwater Beach recreation supervisor J.P. Atherholt said beachgoers and boaters need to be aware of rip currents, or strong channels of water that flow seaward through a gap in a sandbar. Neither recent drowning occurred in a particularly dangerous spot, he said, but rough conditions can make even tame areas deadly.

"It's important to know that a rip current can happen at any time," Atherholt said. "It can be strong or it might just be a small current."

They are difficult to spot with an untrained eye, so it is best to ask lifeguards about conditions and check nearby signs before getting in the water.

Boaters should don life jackets before jumping off. But there is no need to go chasing after pets, said FWC spokesman Gary Morse. Dogs are strong swimmers and will usually come when the owner calls.

Should a swimmer be stuck in a rip current, it's important not to panic and waste energy. Swim parallel to the shore to escape from the current before turning in toward the sand.

"Even if you don't swim, just float and relax," while awaiting help, Atherholt said. "They're not going to take you all the way out to the Gulf of Mexico."

Reach Julie Kliegman at [email protected] or (813) 226-3401. Follow @jmkliegman on Twitter.

Signs warn beach goers walking out to the dog beach area of Honeymoon Island about strong currents after a man drowned trying to rescue a 5-year-old girl.  [Jim Damaske | Times]

Signs warn beach goers walking out to the dog beach area of Honeymoon Island about strong currents after a man drowned trying to rescue a 5-year-old girl. [Jim Damaske | Times]

Avoid rip currents to stay safe on Pinellas beaches 06/16/14 [Last modified: Monday, June 16, 2014 11:27pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Clearwater eyes hiring new downtown director within two months

    CLEARWATER — Now that the city director tasked with revitalizing downtown has resigned after his arrest on a battery charge during Oktoberfest, City Manager Bill Horne said the goal is to not leave the position vacant long.

    Clearwater Assistant City Manager  Micah Maxwell will oversee downtown until the city hires a replacement for Seth Taylor.
  2. Tampa Bay's Top 100 Workplaces deadline extended to Nov. 17


    Think you work at one of the best places in Tampa Bay? You've got a little more time to make a pitch.

    Penny Hoarder and Gregory, Sharer & Stuart were among those at an event in Tampa last May honoring winners of the Tampa Bay Times Top Workplaces awards. Nominations are now open for this year.  
[OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  3. Little separates McElwain and Muschamp eras of futility at Florida


     Florida Gators head coach Jim McElwain watches the second quarter of the Florida Gators game against Texas A&M, at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, in Gainesville.
  4. Tampa-based Checkers testing delivery, aims for record expansion


    TAMPA — Tampa-based Checkers Drive-In Restaurants continues to fly under the radar compared to dominant burger chains like McDonald's and Burger King.

    Checkers Franchisee Shaji Joseph, of Tampa, hoses down the front walkway of his store at 6401 Park Boulevard, Pinellas Park. The business has a new look including signage and exterior tile. One drive through has been eliminated for an outdoor dining area, right. Joseph owns nine Checkers and is planning to open his tenth in Tampa.
[SCOTT KEELER   |   Times ]
  5. What you need to know for Friday, Oct. 20


    Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today

    At last year's Dia de los Muertos, Casa Tina owner Tina Marie Avila (crouching) shows her "Ofrenda," or Day of the Dead alter. What would have been the 25th annual Dia de los Muertos Fiesta on Saturday had to be canceled this year because of Hurricane Irma. The folk festival will be back next year.
 [JIM DAMASKE  |  Times (2016)]