Officials warn beach goers of rip currents and choppy winds as high winds stir up the Gulf

Posted at 11:30 PM, May 27, 2018

MANATEE COUNTY, Fla -- Subtropical Storm Alberto brought heavy wind to Tampa Bay area beaches. The storm stirred up the Gulf of Mexico and produced choppy waves, a potential danger to beach goers who are not good swimmers. 

When the clouds broke on Sunday, people visiting the beach for the extended weekend came out to enjoy the sand and sun. 

"We loaded up as fast as we could and ran down to the beach," said Becca Leonard, who is visiting from Texas. She expected a wash out this weekend.

The National Weather Service says people should be aware of the high rip current risk.  

“[It’s] very very windy, it’s kind of scary, the undertow appears to be really bad,” said Ryan Welles, who drove to Anna Maria Island from Lakeland with his wife and two kids. "I’m not really letting her get in over her shins or her knees at all."

The National Weather Service says waves could reach 3-6 feet in coastal areas of Pinellas, Hillsborough, Manatee, Sarasota, Lee, and Charlotte counties. Lauren Hayes brought her little ones to play in the sand, but says they are not going in the water.

"It’s beautiful just be aware of the ocean, it can surprise you with how quickly the currents can get you and always watch these kids because they take off pretty quickly,” she said.

Rip currents push water quickly away from the shore. If you are caught in one, remain calm and yell for help. Officials say you use a lot of energy trying swim against a rip current. You should instead stay afloat and if possible swim parallel to the shore to get out of the rip current.

The NWS says the choppy waves should only last until Monday evening.