The Weather Channel said Hurricane Irene was coming, FEMA warned people in certain areas to evacuate, and the National Weather Service gave visual maps depicting warnings and forecasts about the Category 3 tropical storm, along with radar and satellite images. But it was the eight injury victims and a man who almost drowned in Florida to taste the first of Irene’s fury in the U.S.
Hurricane Irene was expected to produce waves between 20 to 25 feet offshore (12 to 16 feet near shore), strong rip currents that could easily pull swimmers out to sea — and keep them there, and powerful and fast winds, as much as 115 m.p.h.
Her reputation was kept intact as she neared the Florida coastline on Thursday, where one man felt the tropical storms powerful tug during his almost deadly swim at Jupiter’s Carlin Park.
CBS Channel 12 reported that in Palm Beach County, Florida, Jupiter’s Police Chief Kitzerow has had his hands busy in the area with swimmers staying in the ocean and surfers trying to ride the powerful waves being produced, despite the dangers of the storm.
“This person quickly found himself about two miles south of here,” Kitzerow said. The swimmer had experienced a rip current, which propelled him back out to sea, away from shore.
If you are in the water when a rip current is felt, don’t try to fight the current, as you want to do, thinking you can make it back to shore that way. Instead follow these tips in order to be free of a rip current, like the Jupiter man, gaining your freedom even if it is two miles down shore before you do.
Vacationers at Georgia’s Cumberland Island and other vacationing spots along the East Coast are reluctant to leave the waters as Hurricane Irene approaches, and ferries and hotels aren’t refusing or cancelling service or accommodations in many places, expecting to see little fun time interference at their particular locals.
Dennis Parsons, the Cumberland Island National Seashore Chief Ranger says despite their willingness to keep the Island open and the ferry running, “We tend to be pretty cautious,” when it comes to Island vacation safety.
Parsons says Cumberland could change their mind about remaining open if the forecast for Friday shows they are more in danger for effects than originally thought, remaining open if not.
But rip currents and other water dangers, as well as high wind damage can impact almost any spot in Hurricane Irene’s projected path, and the wide swath it will cut in addition.
Boynton Beach in Florida was a locale not expected to get any onshore Irene activity, but that didn’t stop the storm from producing waves so high they sent eight people to the hospital for treatment in that area.
Chief Kitzerow attributes most of the potential for injuries due to Irene to people being fascinated by the storm and wanting to see it up close for themselves, making a trek to the beach despite storm watches being issued.
Police and emergency crews have to aid these onlookers if they meet with dangerous conditions in the water, so Chief Kitzerow urges others in Florida — and his warning is applicable everywhere else on the East Coast — to rethink their offshore excursions right now.
“Before you go into the water, take a look, turn on the tv, see what’s sitting off the coast and you can get an idea how dangerous it is.”