Communities in the Jersey Shore have issued alerts that ocean swimmers should be aware of possible severe rip currents now that Hurricane Arthur has been upgraded to a hurricane.
Strong rip currents are expected at least through Sunday, said Sea Bright's message, distributed through the Nixle alert system.The National Weather Service also has issued a rip current warning for beaches in New Jersey and Delaware.
Rip currents, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, are narrow channels of fast-moving water that pull swimmers away from the shore. They can occur any time, in fair or foul weather, on breezy days and calm days and at high tide or low tide.
In an average year, more than 100 Americans lose their lives after being dragged out to sea in rip currents, though last year the number of deaths totaled 41, figures compiled by NOAA show.
A swimmer's best bet -- aside from swimming at a guarded beach -- is to be able to identify a rip current.
A photo illustration provided by NOAA (attached to this article) shows an example of a rip current at an ocean beach. Breaking waves are seen being interrupted by the flow of the current, which makes a clear path out to sea. In other NOAA photographs (also attached), rip currents are seen having a clearly-identifiable lighter water coloration than the surrounding water.
Experts advise against swimming near jetties or piers where there are fixed rip currents, and recommend only strong swimmers swim in a large body of water that is subject to changing wind, waves and currents.
If you find yourself caught in a rip current, the United States Lifesaving Association says to follow a number of steps to escape:
- Yell for help immediately.
- Don’t swim against the rip current – it will just tire you out.
- Escape the rip current by swimming parallel to the beach until you are free.
- If you are unable to swim out of the rip current, float or calmly tread water.
- When out of the current, swim toward the shore at an angle away from the rip current.
Those heading to the beach for the day should check the NOAA's surf zone forecast for the Shore area, which is often updated multiple times per day at the National Weather Service website.