Environmental and coastal experts say New Jersey's beaches are more than ready for visitors over Memorial Day weekend, but your favorite shore spot may look and act a little differently, at least for the first part of the summer season.

New Jersey's coast was delivered a one-two punch in the offseason from storms Joaquin and Jonas, tearing away a significant amount of sand from beaches. And as of right now, much of that sand is still missing.

According to Jon Miller, an ocean engineering expert at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, eroded sand remains in sand bars offshore. The sand bars are bigger and farther from shore than usual.

Dr. Jon Miller with Stevens Institute of Technology warns of a heightened rip current risk along the Jersey Shore. (Dino Flammia, Townsquare Media NJ)

He's hopeful that by mid-summer, New Jersey's beaches will be back to their pre-winter conditions.

"Those sand bars will eventually work their way back on shore, so little by little, the beaches will get larger and larger," Miller said Thursday at a State of the Shore media event in Asbury Park. "It may take a little bit longer for the beaches to regain their full width, but overall I think they're going to be fine for this weekend."

And until much of that sand returns, Miller said, there's an added rip current risk for beachgoers.

Sand bars, and more importantly the gaps in them, can create conditions conducive to dangerous surf. The powerful currents pull swimmers away from the shore.

"We want to just be safe while we're bathing, particularly in the beginning part of the season," Miller said. "Certainly talk to lifeguards...They know where the rip currents are."

According to the New Jersey Sea Grant Consortium, rip currents are estimated to claim nearly 100 lives nationwide each year.

If caught in a rip current, swimmers are advised:

  • Don't fight it.
  • Swim parallel to the shore out of the current.
  • If you can't escape, float or tread water.
  • Call or wave for assistance.

Contact reporter Dino Flammia at Dino.Flammia@townsquaremedia.com