By Ferdie de la Torre
May 24, 2012
Rip currents are the major cause of drowning in the CNMI, according to Charles “Chip” Guard, the warning coordination meteorologist for the Weather Forecast Office Guam.
“See, [people] think the biggest risk is the wind. It's not. The ocean is what kills people, not the wind so much,” said Guard yesterday.
Guard said if people get caught by a rip current, they should not swim against it but across it, and escape to shore. The tendency, however, Guard said, is that people panic and they try to swim against the current.
“People swim against the current until they get exhausted. They should swim parallel to the coast,” he said.
Guard is the lecturer at the Emergency Management Office's two-day Annual National Weather Service Tropical Cyclone, Disaster Preparedness, and Climate Workshop that kicked off Tuesday at LaoLao Bay Golf Resort Saipan's Caladium Banquet Hall.
About 70 people from EMO, other government agencies, and the private sector joined the workshop. EMO initiated the workshop through funding from the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program.
Guard talked about rip currents, tropical cyclone, programs and products, tsunami, tides, typhoons, among other things.
Guard cited the case of a Customs and Border Protection officer who drowned while spear fishing at Obyan Beach on Sunday night.
Guard explained that any time waves come in over the reef, they break over the reef and that water has to drain back into the ocean.
“The more water comes over the reef, the stronger will be the rip currents,” he said.
If there is a storm, Guard said, there will be big waves so rip currents will be very strong, carrying water back into the ocean.
“So when people get out there and they get caught by these rip currents, they can get sucked out into the open ocean. If they're not get rescued, they drown,” he said.
He said rip currents may also be found inside lagoons, reef channels and river mouths.
To determine signs of a rip current, Guard said that swimmers should look for a line of debris such as coconuts, palms fronds, sea foam or trash.
To avoid drowning, Guard said that people should wear floatation devices. “Or if you have partners, they should know where you are so you can be rescued if something happens,” he said.
At the workshop, EMO's geophysical seismic technician/supervisor John Takai Camacho also talked about volcanoes and their threat to the CNMI.