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NOAA rolls out new technology that predicts currents six days in advance

Rip currents account for more than 100 deaths in the US each year, so the ocean service is hopeful that their new forecast model will help save more lives.

BEAUMONT, Texas — It may not feel like beach weather right now, but summer is fast approaching.
And the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is launching a new model that could help save lives.

It can predict rip currents not only hourly but six days in advance.

Rip currents account for more than 100 deaths in the United States each year. That's why NOAA's ocean service is hopeful that their new rip current forecast model will help save more lives this year.

Rip currents move perpendicular to shore. They're quick, strong, and can be dangerous for swimmers.

“Will and Micah were in the water just playing and the wave just caught him it just caught him,” Heide Burgess told 12News.

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10-year-old Micah Batson got caught in a rip last year. He was swept away from shore very quickly, and sadly he drowned.

“It does take lives every year,” said Henry Trochesset with the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office.

In the past, forecasters were manually predicting rip currents on large sections of the ocean only one to two days in advance. This made it difficult for local officials to warn swimmers when currents were dangerous.

“We're able to more accurately able to predict when hazardous rip currents are more likely to occur we are also able to predict when and where rip currents are likely to occur at a much more highly resolved level so we can provide a rip current forecast every kilometer on shore every hour going six days into the future,” Greg Dusek said.

Dusek is a senior scientist at NOAA and the creator of the new model.

It's a project he's been working for ten years. The model uses wave and water level information from the National Weather Service's nearshore wave prediction system. It predicts the likelihood of dangerous seaward currents on a sliding scale from 0 to 100 percent.

“What we're working on is trying to use new technology and artificial intelligence and cameras to be able to detect rip currents track rip currents more often at more locations, which will enable us to create an even better model in the years to come,” Dusek said.

If you do get caught in a rip current, you're advised to swim parallel to the shore. You can also let the current carry you out to sea until the force weakens.

The most important thing is don't panic. Try to keep your head above water and don't exhaust yourself fighting against the current's force.

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