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Less Algae At The Beach But Rip Current Threat Remains

The risk of rip currents remains this weekend at New Jersey’s beaches but the algae reported this week seem to have all but disappeared.

Crowd gathers on the beach
Crowd gathers on the beach in Atlantic City. (Dino Flammia, Townsquare Media NJ)

The state Environmental Protection Department says Thursday’s coastal surveillance flight showed no sign of the recent phytoplankton bloom that was spotted off southern Monmouth and northern Ocean counties.

The DEP says samples collected confirmed marine algae levels are greatly reduced and organisms are below bloom levels. Swimmers earlier in the week complained about the discoloration of the water caused by the presence of algae.

The National Weather Service says there is a moderate risk for rip currents for all of New Jersey’s beaches this weekend and 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.

The heavy surf this summer has also led to more injuries.  AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center says the 24 ocean injuries treated at its trauma center in Atlantic City this summer are more than double the number treated last year.

AtlantiCare Neurosciences Institute director Monica Titus tells the Press of Atlantic City spinal cord injuries are the leading diagnosis. Titus says six of the eight spinal cord injuries recorded during the last week of July involved swimmers.

Beach patrol captains say waves crashing close to shore, larger crowds and older swimmers are among the factors that lead to more injuries.

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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