TALLAHASSEE – Strong onshore east winds will result in a high risk of rip currents along Florida’s Atlantic Coast, Big Bend, and eastern Panhandle beaches through Tuesday.

In addition to the rip current risk, rough surf and higher waves could result in minor coastal flooding and beach erosion on the East Coast during high tide cycles. By heeding the advice of local officials and lifeguards, residents and visitors to Florida’s beaches can reduce their chances of injury or loss of life.

“We’re urging all beachgoers to follow the advice and safety warnings from local officials this Columbus Day,” said Division of Emergency Management Director Craig Fugate.

Beachgoers are strongly advised to avoid entering the surf through Wednesday. Emergency Managers and lifeguards urge all residents and visitors to understand their limitations, be aware of rip currents, and learn how to get out of them safely. A rip current is a channel of water that rapidly flows away from the shoreline.

Some important safety tips to keep in mind if you witness a person stranded in the water:

* Get help from a lifeguard.

* If a lifeguard is not available, have someone call 911.

* Throw the rip current victim something that floats--a lifejacket, a cooler, or an inflatable ball.

* Yell instructions on how to escape. The best method is to swim out of the current in a direction following the shoreline. When out of the current, swim at an angle--away from the current--towards shore.

* Remember, many people drown while trying to save someone else from a rip current.

Other beach safety tips include: Wear sunscreen and be sure to drink plenty of liquids, such as water. Stay aware of your environment and keep an eye out for changing weather.

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