Communicating Rip Current Hazards To The Public via Social Media (242)

Morgan Barry, National Weather Service, Mobile, AL



Rip currents are a common coastal hazard which must be accurately forecast and effectively communicated by National Weather Service offices. Even though, on average, rip currents are not among the top three leading causes of weather-related deaths nationally, this phenomenon has been the number one weather-related killer for beaches served by the NWS Mobile/Pensacola office. Past data have shown that a vast majority of rip current related deaths are beachgoers who reside in areas away from the coast. These tourists are rarely, if ever, exposed to the term &ldquorip current&rdquo or safety actions to take if caught in a rip current. Because rip currents can and often do occur on clear and sunny days, reaching and educating these beachgoers using traditional forecast products can be challenging for many NWS Offices along the Gulf Coast.

Over the past few years, several NWS Mobile/Pensacola rip current safety and forecast tweets have reached a half million people each with the help of inland National Weather Service offices and broadcast meteorologists across the country. Effectively communicating the dangers of rip currents through social media allows more people to become educated on the proper actions to take if caught in a rip current. This could potentially save a life.

This poster will highlight how the NWS Mobile/Pensacola office has educated and effectively communicated rip current hazards to the public using social media. By presenting some of the successes of rip current education on social media, we hope it will stimulate further ideas on how to educate tourists on the dangers of rip currents.