The storm below the water's surface: Rip currents tear up July 4th plans

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – First Alert Meteorologists and local lifeguards are already monitoring storm formation off the coast. The biggest threat could be under the water's surface.

Lack's Beach Service has lifeguards out training, pulling in additional workers and overstaffing for the holiday weekend.

"We'll have plenty of people to help during the holiday and if the storm does come they'll be on a heightened awareness of what is going on," explained Hannah Houston, the Recruiting and Training Manager with Lack's Beach Service.

The lifeguards are not only dealing with extra crowds forming on the beach, but also a potential tropical storm forming off the coast.

The National Weather Service works with local lifeguards and Houston said they will instantly put up red flags to keep people out of the water.

"There's a storm out there churning up our water and making a rip current risk. You need to make sure everyone in your group - adults included- know what to do if they get caught in a rip current," urged First Alert Meteorologist Marla Branson.

The first thing to do is to keep calm.

"Most of the time people are panicked to the point where they can't help themselves," said Houston.

One local man knows the feeling firsthand.

"It's a complete loss of control and when you're out there you don't know if you have the energy to swim back," said Robin Smith. Moving to Myrtle Beach a few years ago, Smith recalled the moment he was caught in a rip current.

"It was actually really scary. I ended up three to four hundred feet away from shore and remembered what I saw on the news to swim parallel and got out of it, thank God," said Smith.

The biggest threat of rip currents will be during low tide which is mid day on Independence Day.

"During high tide everyone gets crowded on the beach so it is harder to maneuver that way," said Houston.

However, it is also the time of day most people are at the beach. Lifeguards will keep people out of the surf if they think there is a threat of rip currents

Another threat leading into the month of July: jellyfish. This month kicks off the season and jellyfish start getting closer to Grand Strand shores as the water warms up.

Check the lifeguard stands for blue flags warning of any aquatic hazard, and ask a lifeguard about the threat.

Copyright 2014 WMBF News. All rights reserved.