Rip currents have always posed a threat to beachgoers at the Jersey Shore. But in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, officials are warning that they could prove to be even more dangerous than normal this year.
“Where you might be well versed in the rip currents, they might not be in the same spots this year,” said Walter Drag of the National Weather Service.
When Sandy hit last year, experts say it altered underwater terrain by moving a large amount of sand. The storm also exposed rock jetties and other previously hidden hazards. Officials say those factors could lead to rip currents capable of carrying a swimmer out to sea.
“Rip currents are always a danger,” said Professor Jon Miller of the Stevens Institute of Technology. “They’re always a hidden danger but I think this year in particular we should be extra vigilant and extra careful.”
On Tuesday, officials held a press conference in Surf City, NJ to kick off Rip Current Awareness Week. During the meeting, experts answered questions and warned the public of the increased danger.
“If you get caught in a rip, it could be your life,” Drag said.
Several Jersey Shore beach patrols plan on using a rip current smart phone app to report the rips to each other, the coast guard and other agencies.
“The whole idea is to keep lifeguards in communication so that as things shift around and become active, we have a way of keeping track of that,” said Miller.
Lifeguards say that if you’re caught in a rip current, remain calm, don’t fight the current and swim parallel to the shoreline until you’re out of it. If necessary, float or tread water and call for help.
However, the most important thing to remember is to not go in the water at all unless a lifeguard is on duty.