Hundreds Rescued After Dangerous Currents Rip Florida Coast

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — A day at the beach almost turned deadly for hundreds of swimmers in Florida this holiday weekend due to potentially deadly rip currents.

Rip currents are powerful channels of fast-moving water, caused by shifting sands, that can travel at speeds of eight feet per second — faster than an Olympic swimmer.

"There's a high pressure system that has built offshore of Florida," said Dr. Greg Forbes, of the Weather Channel. "East winds coming in pretty fast are causing waves on the Florida coast and then the water going back out to sea gives rip currents."

Here on the east coast, there were over 120 rescues by Monday afternoon, on top of 100 previous rescued on Saturday and Sunday, according to Scott Petersohn, Deputy Chief of Volusia County Beach Safety Ocean Rescue.

One of those rescued was Teresa Lattimore's 10-year-old son.

"I had a panic attack. My heart almost stopped beating and that's why I have to leave the beach right now," Lattimore told NBC News.

The red flags are whipping in the wind on the beach, but thankfully no one has been seriously injured yet.

If you're caught in a rip current, the best advice is to swim parallel to shore until you escape.

"Don't swim directly back into the rip," said Petersohn. "Don't panic. Don't expel your energy all at once. Wave your hands for help."