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COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) — The tragic accidents in Columbus and Caledonia over this Memorial Day weekend highlight just how dangerous swimming in local rivers and lakes can be.

Taking a dip in the river sounds like a great way to cool off on a hot day but rip currents in the water can create life threatening situations for children and adults. Captain Scott Swain with Columbus Fire and Rescue says weather conditions can play a major role in water safety.

After a big rain, especially around this area, after a big rain the current will actually pick up. It can move anywhere from 1 1/2 miles an hour to about 4 1/2 miles an hour. That’s actually hard for anybody to swim out of, especially small children,” says Swain.

Rescue officials say even if the current is low, you have to watch out for other dangers like this water log that could be hidden beneath the surface.

According to the CDC, about 10 people die from drowning in the United States every day. The main cause: the victims couldn’t swim.

“If they can’t swim, they should have a life jacket on. If they’re children they should have adult supervision. As far as adults go, drugs and alcohol play a big part in the trouble they get in,” says Captain Jr. Lancaster with Columbus Fire & Rescue.

The American Red Cross recently launched a campaign to encourage people to become stronger swimmers. Research showed that about 54% of Americans cannot swim well enough to save themselves.

“It’s extremely dangerous. If you think you can swim, then you have no fear. You’re just going to go in and jump into the river like it’s no big deal. If something happens like a strong under current and you’re not a strong swimmer, you’re going to get caught in it,” says Stephanie Gonzalez, the Head Life Guard at the Columbus YMCA.

Strong swimmers should have skills that include floating in water for at least one minute and swimming in deep water. As summer approaches and water activities increase, adhering to these water safety tips just may save a life.

The new Red Cross campaign hopes to reduce the drowning rate by 50 percent, in 50 cities over the next three to five years. For more water safety tips, just go to http://www.redcross.org/videos/Rip-Currents-Challenge-Ocean-Swimmers.

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