JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Coast Guard and lifeguards are advising swimmers, surfers and other beachgoers to exercise caution at local beaches because of heavy surf churned up by a hurricane 1,600 miles away.
The National Weather Service has issued a rip current warning through Thursday night in Glynn, Camden, Nassau, Duval, St. Johns and Flagler counties due to swells from Tropical Storm Edouard. Swimmers, surfers and beachgoers are advised to listen to advice from lifeguards or avoid water activities altogether until weather conditions improve.
"Waves are picking, up so that means runouts are going to be picking up as well," according to Jacksonville Beach Ocean Rescue Lt. Jason Caffey.
A runout, or rip current, is a powerful channel of water that flows quickly away from shore. They often occur at low spots or breaks in the sandbar. Anyone caught in a rip current can be pulled out into deeper seas.
"I went swimming on Sunday and got caught pretty bad in one," said Richard DeShong, who is visiting from Tennessee."My girlfriend was swimming next to me and all of a sudden she was, like a half a mile away from me."
DeShong's daughter, who lives in Jacksonville, wasn't even going in the water.
"I think it's really dangerous and kind of scary," said Tarah DeShong. "I wouldn't want to get in the water because I wouldn't want to have to deal with that."
Lifeguards have advice for anyone in the ocean in such conditions, even strong swimmers.
"If you ever do get stuck in a run-out, please swim parallel to shore; don't panic," Caffee said. "That's the biggest thing. Once you start panicking, that's when you start going under; that's when you start getting tired."
Once you are away from the force of the rip current, begin to swim back to the beach.
"If you're not uncomfortable in the water, I'd stay out, and if you are going to go into the water, I definitely recommend swimming in front of a lifeguard," Caffey said. "The conditions, they're dangerous, and just be careful; look at our condition signs; look at the ocean."
Yellow flags were flying Wednesday afternoon, but Caffey said they are likely post red flags before conditions begin to improve.
For more information, visit the National Weather Service report.