BALDWIN COUNTY, Ala (WALA) -- In the last seven days, Baldwin beach lifeguards have had to rescue more than 25 people.
For many swimmers, they are in the water having fun when suddenly a rip takes hold, but there is hope that new technology will help keep people safe.
On Wednesday, a red flag was flying high on Gulf Shores beach.
“Any time we have red flags we encourage people not to get into the water, especially if you’re not an experienced swimmer,” said Joethan Phillips, Gulf Shores Beach Safety Chief. “The water is not closed, but there are dangerous conditions out there.”
Rough surf, crashing waves and rip currents keeping beach life guards busy.
Phillips has been a beach lifeguard for nearly 15 years and he has seen it all.
“These rip currents when we have red flag days can pull very hard,” he said.
Rips are one of the biggest threats’ swimmers face here. They are powerful, narrow channels of fast-moving water that pull away from shore.
“The main thing is if you get caught in a rip current or you start feeling yourself being pulled back is to relax, call for help, and don’t try to fight the current,” Phillips said. “Once you feel the current stop pulling you back you can swim parallel to the beach and then swim in.”
For years, rip currents have been hard to anticipate, but new technology from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is changing that.
“The model predicts the likelihood of hazardous rip currents from zero to 100 percent every mile or so along the beach, every hour going out 6 days into the future,” said Greg Dusek, a Senior Scientist at NOAA.
Dusek has been working on this new tech for more than a decade.
The model, looks at wave and water level forecasts. Similar to predicting weather, the model predicts the likelihood of dangerous currents.
“How accurate do you think this is,” asked FOX10 News Reporter Tyler Fingert.
“We’ve seen improvements upwards of 50% compared to our previous approaches,” Dusek said.
Nationwide, rip currents kill about 100 people every yea, including 2 just this week in Baldwin County. This new technology hopes to reduce that.
For lifeguards like Phillips, he is hoping a more informed beachgoer leads to a safer beach day.
“The best tool is eyes on the beach and actually looking at rip currents, but anytime you can have other sources to help you and more accurate sources that is a very big help,” he said.
This life-saving technology is already being used on the Gulf Coast. The National Weather Service in Mobile says the new model is helping guide their daily rip current forecast.
If you want to see the forecast from NWS, click here.