Vacationing swimmers on shores along the Eastern Seaboard may be reluctant to get out of the water based upon the Hurricane watch notifications making the rounds, especially if this is the only vacation they planned to take this year. And some Eastern Seaboard islands, like Georgia’s Cumberland Island, even plan to continue Ferry Service despite Hurricane Irene’s presence.
This willingness by some officials to allow continued activities by vacationers will lead some swimmers to persist in their water endeavors even when a tropical storm warning is issued as well.
But rip currents — those strong channels of water as much as 30 yards wide that can pull a strong swimmer out to sea (and their death) — are par for the course with hurricanes like Hurricane Irene, now moving into a Category 4 status. And these potential rip current warnings don’t need to be ignored.
Despite the fact that Volusia County Beach in Florida is allowing its residents to drive at the beach with Hurricane Irene barreling toward the U.S. East Coast, beach lifeguard towers are still on alert, flying red flags to warn swimmers that a surf hazard conditions exists at present and that includes potential for rip currents.
Georgia’s Cumberland Island and Sapelo Island officials, likewise, express their main concerns about keeping the islands open to tourists and others is rip currents and high winds.
Surviving a rip current
Swimmers who do find themselves caught up in a rip current have options.
They should not attempt to swim directly back to shore, against the current, as they will be more likely to tire quickly and succumb in the end to the strong pull that propels them back towards the ocean.
Instead, they need to continue to move in the water, but do move sideways — until they can no longer feel the rip current pulling them.
Another option exists, per WPBF News, in the event moving sideways proves to be too tiring in the end. You can allow the current to move you backwards 50 to 100 yards, immediately taking advantage of the weakened rip current force that occurs at that distance, in order to then swim at an angle away from the current, and back toward the beach.
Tropical storm strong winds
Rip currents aren’t the only danger when hurricanes like Irene storm the outer perimeter of land mass, strong winds can make any unattached object a potential weapon, dislodging outdoor items and turning them into dangerous projectiles.
Wind advisories are already in effect in Volusia as well as Flager County in Florida from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. on Thursday, with the beach in Volusia expected to be closed to driving and swimming all day Friday, according to the Daytona Beach News Journal. This is due to winds more than rip current dangers, with wind speeds expected to be between 25 and 45 m.p.h.
In Georgia, tropical-storm force winds are also expected along the Peach State 100-mile coastline, per CBS Atlanta.
We recommend you also read Radell Smith’s other Hurricane Irene-related articles:
“Take charge: Track Hurricane Irene yourself from your home using these tools”
“Nominate a friend for The Weather Channel Severe Weather hero: They could win $2,000”
“Marine warnings due to Hurricane Irene: Waves as high as 16 feet possible”
“Small water craft facing up to 25 feet waves offshore”
“Could Hurricane Irene follow the course of these 3 hurricanes?”