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Rip Current Risk, Algae Increase At Shore

The risk of rip currents returns to New Jersey’s beaches along with water discoloration because of algae.

Beach at Beach Haven
Beach Haven (Shawn Michaels, Townsquare Media NJ)

The National Weather Service says there is a moderate risk for rip currents for New Jersey’s southern beaches thru Wednesday. As the summer beach season begins to wind down, swimmers are warned to watch for the red flags flying on the beach and to only swim where a life guard is present.

Earlier in the summer  several deaths were blamed on strong rip currents.

State environmental officials are monitoring reports of discolored water because of algae off some beaches.

Phytoplankton samples are being collected at beaches in Monmouth County after the microscopic plants were spotted around Asbury Park, Avon and Bradley Beach.

The Environmental Protection Department says the plants generally are not harmful to humans. However, heavy concentrations that remove oxygen from the water may be deadly to fish and shellfish.

WHAT IS A RIP CURRENT?

According to the National Weather Service, rip currents can occur along any coastline that features breaking waves. Scientific investigations of wave and current interactions along the coast have shown that rip currents are likely present on most beaches every day as a component of the complex pattern of nearshore circulation.

As waves travel from deep to shallow water, they eventually break near the shoreline. As waves break, they generate currents that flow in both the offshore (away from the coast) and the alongshore directions. Currents flowing away from the coast are called rip currents.

Rip current
How rip currents form (NOAA)

How to Identify Rip Currents

Look for a channel of churning or choppy water or an area with a recognizable difference in water color. Pay attention to any lines of foam, seaweed or debris moving steadily seaward or any breaks in incoming wave patterns.

Signs that a rip current is present are very subtle and difficult for the average beachgoer to identify. Look for differences in the water color, water motion, incoming wave shape or breaking point compared to adjacent conditions. Look for any of these clues:

  • Channel of churning, choppy water
  • Area having a notable difference in water color
  • Line of foam, seaweed, or debris moving steadily seaward
  • Break in the incoming wave pattern
  • One, all or none the clues may be visible.

What To Do If You Get Caught In A Rip Current

  • Try to remain calm to conserve energy.
  • Don’t fight the current.
  • Think of it like a treadmill you can’t turn off. You want to step to the side of it.
  • Swim across the current in a direction following the shoreline.
  • When out of the current, swim and angle away from the current and towards shore.
  • If you can’t escape this way, try to float or calmly tread water. Rip current strength eventually subsides offshore. When it does, swim towards shore.
  • If at any time you feel you will be unable to reach shore, draw attention to yourself: face the shore, wave your arms, and yell for help.

The National Weather Service & the Associated Press contributed to this story.

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