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If you’ve ever visited one of the Lowcountry beaches, you understand their appeal. The beautiful scenery, sunny shores and pristine beach homes mixed with usually perfect weather is hard to resist. As relaxing as the beach may be, the ocean water is very dangerous this time of year.

It’s important to be cognizant of the possible dangers when swimming in the ocean at anytime, but especially with a hurricane off shore. Given the right weather conditions, the tide can be very tough and the currents very strong.

Hurricane Bill is affecting Charleston beaches, and lifeguards are currently debating on whether or not to allow swimmers in the water.

Avid Folly Beach surfers, of course, are excited about the recent wave increase. This time of year, mid-hurricane season, is a favorite among surfers. They enjoy the thrills of high waves, strong rip currents and a moody ocean.

But for the average swimmer, these conditions are deadly.

Surface wind can help create narrow, fast moving channels of water. These channels flowing out to sea are known as rip currents. Being caught in a rip current could potentially be fatal. Knowing what to do if you find yourself in a similar situation can save your life.

Lifeguards at the Isle of Palms, along with local fire rescue teams on jet skis have saved over a dozen lives in the past couple weeks. The situations were a direct result of rip currents. Most swimmers caught in rip currents generally are not aware of the subtle, but strong forces pulling them out to sea.

Due to the geography of Sullivan’s Island, the rip currents are generally much stronger than most beaches. The safest place to swim at one of the island beaches is in the water near the middle. The water coming around the ends of the island tend to have the stronger currents. Other places to avoid swimming are areas near jetties, inlets and sandbars.

While it’s no fun to be paranoid when enjoying Charleston’s beaches, it is important to be educated. Be safe while you’re having fun so you can be sure to come back year after year.