Local professor studying rip currents as Brevard County sees spike in drownings

Brevard County officials are racing to find more lifeguards as local professors start studying what’s causing the rough water.

Since December, county data shows there have been 10 drownings along the Space Coast. Normally, the county only averages a couple per year. Researchers say it’s time to start tracking the spike and finding new solutions.

Across Brevard County’s beaches, Florida Tech Ocean Engineering and Marine Science professor Travis Hunsucker is noticing changes. He says last year’s hurricanes could be playing a part in what’s happening underneath the water.'

"Storm events can increase rip currents because there’s more sand that moves around, and so we know there’s some connection there," Hunsucker said who’s now leading the way to collect data behind the rip currents.

Figuring out that connection could go long way to keeping people safe, and he’s "trying to better understand the root cause for the significant uptick in these tragic events."


One of the goals of his new study is to understand why the water seems more dangerous. At the same time, county commissioners are looking for new funding to hire more lifeguards.

"The current budget sits at about, for this fiscal year, about $2.6 million dollars, and we will find the funds in order to make our beaches safer for the tourists and the residents who work and play along our coast," said John Tobia who’s the District 3 Brevard County Commissioner.

County data show there have been 10 drownings since December and almost 400 water rescues.

"Currently, we have 17 full-time and 47 seasonal guards," Tobia added. "That number needs to be increased, so we’re going through quite a bit of effort in terms of recruiting and training folks."

Whether it’s studying the issue or training more lifeguards, more people are looking for solutions with summer right around the corner.

Local officials also cannot stress enough the importance of swimming at a guarded beach. From watch towers, lifeguards can spot rip currents a lot better than swimmers can in the water or on the beach.