Hurricane Following Destruction of Ida Could Cause ‘Life-Threatening Rip Current’ on Atlantic Coast

by Amy Myers

Although experts don’t expect Hurricane Larry to land in the U.S., the East Coast will experience a dangerous rip current. The Category 3 storm is carving its path through the Atlantic just days after Hurricane Ida’s destruction. Residents of Louisiana are still waiting for their power to return and for the flooding to recede. Meanwhile, dozens of people in New Jersey are either missing or dead from the resulting tornadoes and floods. Now, the coast will prepare once again for the side effects of the latest storm that is still hundreds of miles from the Bahamas.

As of Monday, the National Hurricane Center reported that Hurricane Larry has sustained 120 mph winds, compared to Ida’s initial 150 mph winds upon landfall. The current storm’s hurricane-force winds will extend 70 miles from its core, while tropical-storm-force winds will extend 175 miles. The Daily Voice reported Larry is the third strongest hurricane this season so far.

It’s possible that the storm could strengthen to a Category 4 with 140 mph winds. This creates a formula for dangerous conditions along the Northeast’s beaches for the next few days. This includes “life-threatening” rip currents and “significant swells.”

As of now, forecasters expect the hurricane to reach Bermuda’s shores by Thursday, still several hundred miles from the U.S. However, there is still some uncertainty surrounding Larry’s path.

What to Know About Rip Currents

For beachgoers, this means the best way to stay safe while making the most of those final vacation days is to stay clear of the water. Lifeguards will be on high alert for any swimmers venturing too far out into the waters and into the grasp of a potentially fatal rip current. The National Hurricane Center strongly advised vacationers to stay updated with the storm’s current conditions and to follow all local guidelines and warnings.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), rip currents are “powerful, narrow channels of fast-moving water” that can move at speeds up to eight feet per second, faster than an Olympic swimmer. NOAA reported that rip currents account for 80 percent of ocean rescues in the U.S. This is likely due to the fact that most swimmers try to fight the current and swim directly to shore. Soon enough, they become fatigued, and the water pulls them under.

With Hurricane Larry increasing the chances of rip currents along the East Coast, the best plan of action for beachgoers is to dip your toes at the water’s edge rather than opting for a swim. However, if caught in a rip current, swimmers have two options: float or swim parallel to the shore.

While this may seem counterproductive, floating is the best way to conserve energy while waiting for help. Swimming parallel to the shore allows you to pass across the current’s path and slowly reach shallow waters.

The rule of thumb when it comes to surf conditions: if you’re unsure, stay onshore.