Hurricane Earl is expected to bring dangerous and life-threatening rip currents to the East Coast this weekend. The National Weather Service is issuing warnings to beachgoers to stay mindful of the signs. Because the hurricane is so far off the coast, dismissing it as a non-threat could cost you your life.
On Friday, Surf City North Carolina Emergency Management warned people to keep their eyes out for swimmers in distress.
“CAUTION-Swells from Hurricane Earl are creating DANGEROUS rip currents and large breakers in the surf,” they tweeted. “If you visit the beach, please pay attention to the flags and follow the guidance of our ocean rescue personnel. If you see someone swimming in distress, call 911.”
Additionally, because tourism slows down after Labor Day, there may not be lifeguard personnel around despite deadly rip currents.
Hurricane Earl is moving Northeasterly along the Atlantic and will likely maintain hurricane-force winds through the weekend. It’s currently moving at about 26 mph and clocked a maximum of 105 mph winds. Early is expected to slow down on Monday as it moves past Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.
Hurricane Earl Poses Life-Threatening Dangers Despite Moving Away From Land
On Thursday, the National Weather Service warned that rip currents and swells may increase over the weekend. The fact that Earl is far out at sea does not detract from the dangerous currents.
“Hurricane Earl is taking shape south of Bermuda and is forecast to strengthen over the coming days. The good news, Earl remains out at sea, but be aware of increasing swells and rip currents come this weekend.”
The United States Lifesaving Association (USLA) describes rip currents as channelized water currents that flow away from beaches. They are often found around surf beaches, sandbar breaks, and buildings such as jetties and piers.
The USLA cites a 2019 scientific review that estimated an average of over 100 deaths due to rip currents in the United States alone.
Signs that rip currents may be present include:
A narrow gap of darker, seemingly calmer water between areas of breaking waves and whitewater.
A channel of churning, choppy water.
A difference in water color.
A line of foam, seaweed or debris moving seaward.United States Lifesaving Association
The USLA also gives advice for those who find themselves caught in rip currents. Because they don’t pull you under the water, you shouldn’t fight against the current. Try to relax and then follow these guidelines:
You may be able to escape by swimming out of the current in a direction following the shoreline, or toward breaking waves, then at an angle toward the beach.
You may be able to escape by floating or treading water if the current circulates back toward shore.
If you feel you will be unable to reach shore, draw attention to yourself. If you need help, yell and wave for assistance.United States Lifesaving Association
Additionally, you should never enter the water without a flotation device if rip currents may be present.