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Dangerous rip currents persist for Atlantic and Gulf coasts following series of drownings

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(NEW YORK) — Dangerous rip currents are forecast to persist Sunday along much of the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, where at least eight people have drowned since Thursday after being dragged out to sea by the powerful currents, officials said.

The likelihood of life-threatening rip currents is high for beaches along the Atlantic Coast, including the Jersey Shore from Point Pleasant to Cape May, according to the National Weather Service. Dangerous rip currents are also forecast Sunday for North Carolina beaches from Frisco to Emerald, according to the NWS.

High-risk warnings for rip currents were also issued for the Gulf Coast, where the remnants of Tropical Storm Alberto continue to stir up the water.

A high-risk warning means the surf zone is dangerous for all levels of swimmers, and beachgoers should stay out of the water.

Moderate risk warnings, which have been issued for other parts of the Atlantic Coast, mean rip currents are likely, and swimmers are advised to stay near lifeguards and heed the advice of local beach patrols and flag warning systems.

“It’s a beautiful place, but they don’t realize how dangerous it can be. The ocean is strong and final when it gets ahold of you,” Chief Deputy John Budensiek of the Martin County, Florida, Sheriff’s Office told West Palm Beach ABC affiliate WPBF after a Pennsylvania couple got caught in a rip current and drowned while swimming with their six children at Hutchinson Island off Florida’s east coast.

The bodies of the couple, identified as 51-year-old Brian Warter and 48-year-old Erica Wishard, were found by lifeguards about 100 to 125 yards, or 300 to 375 feet, offshore, Martin County fire officials said.

Warter and Wishard were among eight people who have drowned since Thursday while swimming in the rough waters of the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, according to officials.

On Friday, three men from Alabama who were visiting a Florida beach drowned after they went out swimming in the Gulf off Panama City Beach. The drownings occurred a day after a 19-year-old man drowned in the same area, authorities said.

In New York, the U.S. Coast Guard suspended a search Sunday for two boys, ages 16 and 17, whom witnesses said were apparently caught in a rip current at Jacob Riis Park in New York City’s Queens borough and were quickly swept out into the Atlantic, according to New York Police Department Deputy Commissioner Kaz Daughtry.

“The teens tried to jump up to kind of slice the wave, the wave was extremely high, and it went on top of them and sucked them over,” Daughtry said during a news conference.

Meanwhile, the New York State Police said the body of a 15-year-old boy has been recovered after he was swept away and drowned Thursday in a powerful current while swimming in the Genesee River, a tributary of Lake Ontario near Caneadea, New York. Investigators said the teenager and a friend were swimming when he was swept away by the current.

The teen’s body was recovered on Thursday after multiple search-and-rescue teams combed the river.

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