Extra-dangerous, fatal Jersey Shore rips result in dozens of rescues
SEASIDE HEIGHTS — The rough waters of the Atlantic Ocean churned up by Hurricane Chris have made for another busy week for Jersey Shore lifeguards.
A week after five people died after being pulled from the water in Surf City, Normandy Beach and Island Beach State Park, a Pittsburgh man died after he was rescued from the surf in Ocean Grove on Monday. Atlantic City police and the National Guard searched on Monday night for a missing swimmer at the Showboat beach.
"As Hurricane Chris passes about 300 miles southeast of New Jersey today, ocean waves will peak at or above 4 feet," said Meteorologist Dan Zarrow.
Yellow flags were flying along the coast as the National Weather Service said there was a moderate risk of rip currents. Lifeguards said they are doing what they can to make their beaches safer.
"We have had to move laterally down the beach in certain areas to provide a safe swimming area for the public on some beaches," Harvey Cedars Beach Patrol spokesman Brian Devlin told New Jersey 101.5.
He also urged swimmers to not swim unless a lifeguard is present and to always go in the water with at least one other person.
Asbury Park lifeguards closed off a section of the beach to keep a better eye on swimmers after making dozens of rescues on Monday and Tuesday. Seaside Heights lifeguard chief Hugh Jay Boyd called that technique "preventative lifeguarding."
"There's certain areas that you just don't want anybody getting in. If the people get in and get off their feet and over their head the rip will pull them out so we try to prevent that and not let anyone in that area. It's dangerous," Boyd said.
"You wouldn't jump into a raging river. You don't want to let people in where the rip is," Boyd said.
The chief, whose family has more than 160 years of lifeguard experience in Seaside Heights, said larger sandbars create a gully with deeper water on the side closest to the beach.
"Water comes in over a sandbar [and] it has to go back," he said.
Boyd said that he has put some extra guards on certain beaches with heavier crowds and teamed up experienced guards with newer ones.
"We like to say around here it usually takes three years to build confidence and knowledge about the beach. Unless they've been surfers or they grew up on the shore or they've come through our junior lifeguard program," Boyd said.
Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe also urged swimmers to stay near lifeguards no matter where they swim.
"With risks at waterways ranging from ponds to the ocean, the public must be extra cautious around all bodies of water, no matter how inviting and refreshing they may appear. There may be unseen hazards such as rip currents in the ocean, a deceptively swift current in a river, or unexpected cold water just below the surface in a lake or pond. These dangers could lead to exhaustion, fatigue or shock, and ultimately result in drowning,"
Before heading to the shore, the DEP and the American Red Cross remind visitors to understand the waterway they will be visiting, pack appropriate safety gear and remember these safety tips:
- Ensure that everyone in the family becomes water competent and learns to swim well, knows limitations, recognizes and avoids water hazards, and understands how to prevent and respond to water emergencies.
- Swim only at lifeguarded beaches.
- Use U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets when on a boat or in a water situation beyond your skill level.
- Swim with a partner near a lifeguard’s chair. Obey all instructions and orders from lifeguards, and ask them about local conditions.
- Pay close attention to children, seniors and new swimmers at the beach. Even in shallow water, wave action can cause anyone to lose her or his footing.Leave the water immediately
- Swim sober and know your limitations. Make sure you have enough energy to swim back to shore. if a storm approaches. Get off the beach and as far away from the water as possible
- Be cautious around natural bodies of water including ocean shorelines, rivers and lakes, even if you will not be swimming. Cold temperatures, currents and underwater hazards can make a fall into these bodies of water dangerous.
- Wear personal flotation devices when you boat, fish or wade into water with strong currents. Wear protective water suits when you kayak or canoe in areas where cold water may be expected.
- Protect your neck and don’t dive headfirst. Walk carefully into open water. Watch for and avoid aquatic life.