Swim near a lifeguard: Rough ocean conditions this week

    The combination of tropical cyclones well offshore and periods of onshore winds will spur he danger from rip currents this week and possibly through the holiday weekend, forecaters advise. 

    According to the National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Gaston is nearly 600 miles east of Bermuda but swells from the storm are currently arriving at the coast. As a strong hurricane, the National Weather Service expects swells at the shoreline to be the most dangerous Tuesday and Wednesday.

    Another system, Tropical Depression Eight, is currently 210 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina and is expected to brush or make landfall along the Outer Banks as a tropical storm late Tuesday or early Wednesday before heading offshore. Swells from this system will began arriving as the storm heads further offshore and well off the Maryland coast by 2 a.m. Thursday. 

    The last disturbance, Tropical Depression Nine,  is currently 95 miles west-northeast of Havana, Cuba and is forecasted to make landfall along the northern Florida panhandle at or near tropical storm strength on Thursday before tracking well offshore from the South Carolina coast by 2 a.m. Saturday. Swells from this system might be arriving through Labor Day weekend. 

    The National Weather Service issued the following in a morning bulletin:

    THESE SWELLS NOT ONLY ENHANCE THE POTENTIAL FOR DANGEROUS RIP CURRENTS BUT CAN ALSO KNOCK SWIMMERS AND WADERS FLAT INTO THE SAND, CAUSING INJURY. SWIM ONLY IN DESIGNATED AREAS WATCHED BY THE BEACH PATROLS. THIS WILL HELP ENSURE GREATEST SAFETY IN WHAT PROBABLY WILL BE A LONG STRETCH OF FAIRLY ROUGH CONDITIONS ON ATLANTIC OCEAN EXPOSED BEACHES.

    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:

    Stay calm.
    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.

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