Hurricane Franklin’s path could make for deadly ocean swimming conditions. What to know.

A hurricane churning off the Eastern Seaboard is likely to remain hundreds of miles offshore, but will make ocean swimming dangerous over the next several days.

Citing the National Weather Service’s Wilmington office, Horry County emergency management officials posted an advisory to the department’s Facebook page warning of the danger.

“Large swells and rip currents are possible, even from storms far out to sea,” officials said.

The advisory about Hurricane Franklin’s potential impact comes ahead of a week where temperatures will hover in the low 90s.

Franklin, which was about 620 miles east of the Bahamas, strengthened into a hurricane Saturday morning.

The Atlantic hurricane season runs June 1 through Nov. 30. Federal meteorologists are predicting between 12 and 17 named storms with winds of 39 mph or higher, with 70% confidence that at least one could turn into a major hurricane by Dec. 1.

Last week, NOAA updated its prediction for the 2023 season and is calling for an “above normal” level of storm activity because of record-high temperatures in ocean surface waters. Those temperatures are likely to offset the hurricane-suppressing effects of an ongoing El Niño.

Including storms that have already occurred this season, NOAA now forecasts: 14-21 named storms (with winds of 39 mph or greater), of which six to 11 could become hurricanes (with winds of 74 mph or greater). Of those, two to five could become major hurricanes (with winds of 111 mph or greater). NOAA forecasters say they have 70% confidence in those ranges.

Rip currents are the top weather related killer in the Carolinas, accounting for 179 deaths between 2020 and 2022, according to National Weather Service records.

What are rip currents?

Rip currents are strong, channelized currents of water that flow back into the ocean from the shoreline.

They typically form at breaks in sandbars and near structures such as jetties or piers. Rip currents are commonly found at any beach where there are breaking waves, including Great Lakes beaches.

Rip currents are as silent as they are strong

Rip currents behave almost like aquatic treadmills, with speeds between one and eight feet per second. They don’t pull people underwater but away from shore, with their lengths and widths varying.

They’re dangerous and life-threatening for several reasons:

  • They pull people away from shore into deeper waters.

  • They are often hard to identify in the surf and not everyone knows about the danger of rip currents.

  • Sometimes the worst rip current events occur with the best weather.

  • Nice and sunny weather does not mean the ocean is safe.

Rip currents are easiest to spot from elevated positions

If you’re trying to spot a rip current, here are some things to look for:

  • A narrow gap of darker, seemingly calmer, water between areas of breaking waves and whitewater

  • A channel of churning, choppy water

  • A difference in water color

  • A line of foam, seaweed, or debris moving seaward

  • Some types of rips, such as flash rips, can appear as narrow sections of turbulent whitewater heading away from the beach

A 29-year-old man drowned on Friday trying to rescue his son and wife from a rip current at a North Carolina beach, police say.
A 29-year-old man drowned on Friday trying to rescue his son and wife from a rip current at a North Carolina beach, police say.