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NEWORLEANS - The beaches of Gulf Shores, Alabama reopened for swimming after city leaders there shut them down due to four drownings on Monday.

Dangerous rip currents were the apparent cause of the deaths.

'A rip tide is a body of water, a strong current of water, that is rushing from the shores back out in to the deep. It's easy for a person to get caught up in the current when that water is rushing back out,' said Jeffery Parker, a Red Cross Aquatics Instructor Trainer.

Parker said swimming lessons are invaluable.

Rip currents account for more than 80 percent of rescues performed by beach lifeguards, according to the Red Cross.

The organization said that those that find themselves caught in one of these powerful water currents should:

  • never fight it.
  • swim along the shoreline until they are out of the current.
  • remain calm and float or tread until they can swim out of the current.

Even though the water has quieted down, visitors are still thinking about the recent drownings in the area.

'It's very sad that they come down on vacation, and then they have to experience something like that. It's horrible,' said tourist Randall Grammer.

Gulf Shores and many other beach towns display colored flags along the beaches to inform swimmers about the water conditions that day.

  • The most serious is a double red flag, which means it's illegal to enter the water.
  • One red flag means the surf is high and there are dangerous currents.
  • A yellow flag indicates that ocean conditions are rough but not-life threatening.
  • A green flag is an all clear sign meaning that it is safe to swim.
  • A blue or purple flag means a potentially dangerous ocean animal has been spotted, so swimmers are swimming at their own risk.
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