Dorian-influenced swells to create rip current risk over already busy Labor Day weekend

Dorian-influenced swells to create rip current risk over already busy Labor Day weekend

SOUTHEASTERN NORTH CAROLINA (WECT) - As crowds flock to Southeastern North Carolina beaches, ocean rescue crews are gearing up for what could be a busy Labor Day weekend.

“It’s just a lot more people, obviously, out here on the beach," said Sam Proffitt with Wrightsville Beach Ocean Rescue.

Add to the mix the indirect effects of Hurricane Dorian churning in the Atlantic, and things will be more dangerous than normal.

Swells

Tim Armstrong with the National Weather Service said despite Dorian being hundreds of miles away, its strong winds will begin pushing larger swells into Southeastern North Carolina starting Saturday afternoon.

Where those at area beaches might see wave crests of up to one foot Friday and Saturday morning, Armstrong expects that to grow to two or three feet by Sunday and into Monday.

“They add a tremendous amount of energy into the surf zone,” he said.

That extra energy can lead to aggressive surf and a jump in the number of dangerous rip currents.

“Many of our stronger hurricanes lead to a large increase in the number of reported rip currents,” he said.

Additionally, there will likely be some coastal flooding as the swells grow and the tides change with the new moon.

Preparation

Proffitt said like every Labor Day, Wrightsville Beach Ocean Rescue will be fully staffed with guards at each of their 13 towers along with others patrolling on all-terrain vehicles.

Still, he said, safety requires beachgoers to do their part.

Wrightsville Beach uses green, yellow and red flags to indicate conditions, and Proffitt said at least yellow and likely red flags are expected to be in place as the weekend progresses.

“If we are flying red flags, stay out of the water,” he said. "I cannot be any clearer, it’s very dangerous conditions, it’s not worth it, do not get into the water.”

The National Weather Service office in Wilmington now offers a rip-current outlook on its webpage as well.

Armstrong and Proffitt said counts for the number of rescues this summer haven’t been finalized, but that the total is in the hundreds even before a potentially dangerous Labor Day weekend.

With the increase in swimmers and the effects of Dorian together, Armstrong said he wouldn’t be surprised if there were three or four dozen rescues over the weekend.

Hurricane-influenced swells bring their own issues, he said, because people are drawn to the intrigue of the storm.

“A lot of people do like to come out here, especially when you have hurricane swell,” he said.

His advice was simple: "You know, just don’t do anything stupid. Don’t try to increase your social media presence by swimming in hurricane swell. It’s not worth it, and more importantly it’s not worth putting rescuers lives at risk as well to get rescues.”

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