With beaches likely to be busy Saturday as heat begins to build into the region, the National Weather Service is warning of a moderate risk of rip currents.
A moderate risk means that swimmers should expect stronger or more frequent rip currents, always have a flotation device, and swim only in life guarded areas. In some communities, lifeguards are not yet active or are limited.
The risk is due to a longer period easterly swell combined with the proximity to the recent full moon, according to the National Weather Service.
Waves in the surf zone Saturday are three to four feet, and the ocean temperature range from around 60 degrees in Monmouth County to lower 60s in Atlantic and Cape May counties, according to the National Weather Service. Low tide comes during the mid-afternoon.
Rip currents are powerful channels of water flowing quickly away from the shore, often occurring in low spots or breaks in the sandbar and in the vicinity of structures such as groins, jetties, and piers.
According to NOAA, here’s how to identify a rip current:
A channel of churning, choppy water.
An area having a notable difference in water color.
A line of foam, seaweed, or debris moving steadily seaward.
A break in the incoming wave pattern.
Rip current speeds vary, with an average pull of 1-2 feet per second, but some can move as fast as 8 feet per second, which is faster than an Olympic swimmer, according to NOAA.
Your first line of defense is to check the surf forecast before you head to the beach. NOAA updates the forecast daily. Watch this informative NOAA video on rip current safety.
If caught in a rip current, NOAA advises:
Don’t fight the current.
Escape the current by swimming in a direction following the shoreline. When free of the current, swim at an angle—away from the current—toward shore.
If you are unable to escape by swimming, float or tread water. When the current weakens, swim at an angle away from the current toward shore.
If at any time you feel you will be unable to reach shore, draw attention to yourself: face the shore, call or wave for help.