Despite local surfers’ valiant efforts, a New Jersey man recently drowned in the rip currents that plagued Brick Township beaches. Several more swimmers had to be rescued from the deadly waters, churned up by Tropical Storm Odette.
Around 12:30 on Saturday, according to the New York Post, officials responded to a report of a swimmer in distress. Two local surfers were able to keep the man’s head above water, but were not able to get him onto the beach. The Coast Guard was able to rescue the man shortly, but he later died at Hackensack Meridian Medical Center.
The Mount Holly National Weather Service posted a Tweet recently advising residents and visitors to stay out of the water for their own safety. There have not been any lifeguards on the beach since Labor Day weekend, which, mixed with rip currents, makes for a dangerous cocktail.
“Rough surf leading to a higher risk for rip currents is expected today and continuing into tomorrow (due to Tropical Storm Odette which is well off shore and will be moving away from the region),” the NWS posted, “Entering the surf is strongly discouraged!”
Nearby, on the Toms River beach, three people were pulled out of the water around the same time and are now hospitalized. Toms River shut down its beaches for the rest of the day in response.
Rip Currents: What They Are and Why They’re Dangerous
Rip currents are strong, prominent currents that cut into breaking waves near the shore. They can form at sandbars, piers, and jetties, but bad weather also causes rip currents. Such as right now, where Tropical Storm Odette is bearing down on the East Coast, whipping up waters and causing the rip currents.
Rip currents are so dangerous because they easily pull swimmers away from shore and out to sea. According to a study by the Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences, rip currents account for over 100 deaths each year, and 80% of all beach rescues are because of rip currents.
The currents are categorized by a seemingly calm gap of water between the whitewater. Also, look for a prominent channel of churning water. There are usually color differences as well, with the rip current being a darker shade that the water around it.
When caught in a rip current, it’s important to relax. It seems counterintuitive, but rip currents don’t actually pull you under, the mostly pull you away and out to sea. It’s important not to swim against the current, as this will only tire you out and lead to disaster later.
It is possible to swim sideways out of the current matching the shoreline, and then swim diagonally towards shore. Sometimes, the current cycles back to shore and you are able to tread water until it makes its way there. If all else fails, shout and wave your arms to get someone’s attention. It’s also a good idea to swim at a beach that has a lifeguard on duty.