Passing hurricane prompts coastal warnings


JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – Red flags are flying over at northeast Florida beaches as Hurricane Bertha passes about 500 miles out in the Atlantic Ocean.  Waves were 3 to 4 feet on Monday afternoon and growing.

Lifeguards at Jacksonville Beach said with rough surf and lots of dangerous rip currents, swimmers need to be careful.

One man who was pulled out by a rip current on Sunday needed rescue. The current, actually pulled the man under and Jacksonville Beach Ocean Rescue said it was a serious situation.  A beachgoer said he helped rescue a boy in a rip current Monday morning

"The current definitely feel a little stronger," said Sadie Schneider, who noted several rip currents while swimming Monday. "The waves are definitely a little bigger. We all wish we knew how to surf because the waves look better today than they normally do."

The Weather Authority chief meteorologist John Gaughan said the highest surf should be overnight Monday and early Monday.

Surfers were out enjoying the surf, but vacationers were not enjoying the rough ocean.

"We expected it to be bright out. We weren't expecting any of this," said Kenrick Burns, who was visiting from Kentucky.

"It was fun, earlier it was better right as it stopped raining," said surfer, Alec Kent.

"Yesterday it was a little choppy, I think the best day is going to be tomorrow for sure," said another surfer.

Many of the visitors News4Jax spoke with Monday, actually enjoyed the intense conditions.

"It looks pretty ominous, but I love inclement weather, so it is pretty cool," said Kelly Norman, who was visiting from north Georgia. "If we get to board up windows, that's even better."

Lifeguards were being proactive, patrolling and warning beachgoers of the dangers before they get into trouble.

"We definitely advise beachgoers to stay in shallow water, swim near a lifeguard, for sure and just be careful," said Capt Rob Emahiser.

Lifeguards also encouraged swimmers to stay away from the pier, where currents are always more challenging.

"The pier is definitely no place to be near right now with strong currents. the pier always has a rip near it so we always recommend you stay away from the pier but now we've moved that area to a larger area of no swimming," said Emahiser. "Definitely w/all the increased lightning, please don't stay on the beach during the lightning. Seek shelter in a building because the beach is one of the most dangerous places to be during lighting."

Advice for anyone who does go into the ocean and gets caught in a rip current or run-out remains the same: don't panic, keep calm, stay floating and swim parallel to the shore. The currents are not that wide, so you can swim out of it and back to the beach.

"Just keep in mind, you've got to stay calm, it's not going to take you too far from the shore. stay calm and swim parallel to the shore. And go in the same direction as the long shore current is going. Don't try to fight that either and then once you've gotten out of the rip current, swim diagonally back to shore," said Emahiser.