Hurricane Lee to bring dangerous rip currents to the Jersey shore

Trish Hartman Image
Friday, September 15, 2023
Hurricane Lee to bring dangerous rip currents to the Jersey shore
Hurricane Lee to bring dangerous rip currents to the Jersey shore

VENTNOR, New Jersey (WPVI) -- While it was a beautiful day on the beach in Cape May, it was not a good day for swimming.

"We're seeing waves breaking in heights that we're not used to seeing this close to shore," said Tom Amato of Doylestown, Pa.

SEE ALSO: Hurricane Lee track: Latest path, updates

Swimming and bathing were not allowed on Friday, and double red flag warnings were posted at beach entrances.

Lifeguards only allowed experienced surfers in the water.

National Weather Service

"It was fun. Pretty unruly out there, a big day for the hurricane swell," said surfer Mack Radin.

While he had fun, he and his group did encounter rough conditions.

"Two of us out of the four of us got pulled out around the point on the rip current," said Radin. "Fortunately, we knew what to do. You swim sideways, not directly against the current. So we were able to get out of it and go back to shore."

As Hurricane Lee churns hundreds of miles offshore, rip currents are the prime concern at the shore.

Many lifeguards up and down the Jersey shore are done for the season.

Ventnor's beach patrol will have two guarded beaches this weekend, and they'll be watching conditions very closely.

"We're limiting people going into the water about ankle to knee deep just to get their feet wet," said Capt. Dave Funk with the Ventnor City Beach Patrol. "But we're really limiting general bathing because of the surges of the waves."

Cape May County Emergency Management officials aren't too concerned about damaging winds or flooding because the storm is so far out.

"We're not going to expect any tropical storm force winds. The problem we're going to have is with the waves that have been building up for the last 8-10 hours," said Marty Pagliughi, Cape May County Emergency Management Director.

Officials say if you see someone struggling in the ocean and a lifeguard is not in the area, call 911.

Rip currents: What to know about the dangers and how to escape

A rip current, which flows out toward the ocean, can quickly pull a swimmer away from the shore.

Rip currents usually reach a speed of 1 to 2 feet per second, but some can clock in at 8 feet per second, which is faster than an Olympic swimmer, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

If you're caught in a rip current, the first step is to flip to your back and float. Staying calm and not exhausting yourself by fighting against the current is essential to avoid drowning, NOAA said.

Next, you want to swim parallel to the sand until you escape the rip current, which is usually less than 80 feet wide, according to NOAA.

Experts advise looking up water conditions before heading to the beach and, if possible, swimming near a lifeguard.

Rip currents are often strongest at low tide, experts added.

According to the United States Lifesaving Association, you may be able to spot a rip current by looking for: a difference in water color; a line of foam or debris moving out to sea; or a narrow gap of darker, calm-looking water in between breaking waves.

How to escape from life-threatening rip currents
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