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Caught in a riptide? Here’s what to do

News File Photo A pair of Northeast Michiganders lean back from the Lake Huron waves crashing ashore in this 2019 News file photo.

ALPENA — The National Weather Service in Gaylord on Wednesday advised people in Alpena and Presque Isle counties to use caution when swimming in Lake Huron as strong winds and large waves made life-threatening rip currents possible.

The most serious threat is in Presque Isle County, where beachgoers are urged to stay out of the water until at least 8 p.m., when winds are expected to slow. Until then, says the situation is life-threatening, especially later today.

“These types of warnings are not common, especially in Presque Isle County, which only has about two a year, but all the ingredients are there today,” National Weather Service meteorologist Andy Sullivan said on Wednesday.

So, what should swimmers do if they find themselves caught in troubled water?

The Weather Service said swimmers should use extreme caution and have a flotation device with them.

In the water, they should stay away from structures, such as piers or breakwalls, where rip currents are likely to form.

People also should not be in the water alone.

If caught in a rip current, swimmers should:

* Not try to swim against it

* Stay calm.

* Swim parallel to the shore until you reach the breaking waves zone, then swim back to shore.

If you can’t escape it, conserve your energy by floating or treading water and signal for help, the Weather Service says.

The U.S. Lifesaving Association estimates that the U.S. sees more than 100 deaths from rip currents every year. These currents account for more than 80% of rescues performed by beach lifeguards.

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