Swimming Danger

Yellow flags along the beaches near Grant Street in Cape May, warn visitors of strong ocean currents ahead of tropical weather, and lifeguards are urging bathers to swim only on guarded beaches. Friday Sept. 2, 2016. (Dale Gerhard/Press of City)

You can swim in the ocean, but yellow flags will stay the norm up and down the Jersey Shore through Saturday as meteorological conditions have elevated the risk of rip currents.

The National Weather Service in Mount Holly said a moderate risk of rip currents is expected into the weekend.

Both Friday and Saturday are anticipated to be days where “individuals planning to enter the surf should check with local beach patrols first,” according to the NWS. The NWS has issued a moderate or high risk of rip currents since July 6, NWS meteorologist Michael Gorse said.

A moderate risk of rip currents, in combination with water temperatures above 60 degrees and 2.5 degrees or more above average, prove to be some of the deadliest conditions.

If you are caught in a rip current, don’t fight it. Float or tread water if help is near, or swim across the current, parallel to shore. When you are out of it, swim to shore.

The combination of unusually extreme tides surrounding Thursday’s full moon and a southeasterly swell from former Tropical Storm Chris are contributing to Friday’s slightly higher risk. On Saturday, the flow will turn offshore, typically good for diminishing the threat. However, a high wave period — the time it takes for two wave crests to pass a fixed point — of 8 seconds will likely counterbalance that and keep Saturday in the moderate category.

To help beach patrols, the NWS this year began holding conference calls with lifeguard chiefs and officers up and down the Jersey Shore and on the Delaware beaches. Rip currents are brought up in the meetings.

This “boots on the ground” method of listening and sharing ideas holds promise to save even more lives. Harvey Cedars lifeguard Capt. Randy Townsend previously told The Press having direct access to the National Weather Service and its information is exciting news.

“Hopefully, this program takes hold and grows,” he said.

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This is my first newspaper but not my first forecast for NJ. I graduated with a B.S. in Meteorology from Rutgers. Two TV internships gave me a taste for the newsroom. Then, after nearly 4 years in private NJ weather, I'm forecasting South Jersey for you.

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