JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – As Tropical Storm Eta inches up the Gulf Coast, projected to make landfall near Cedar Key early Thursday, conditions on the Atlantic Ocean side of Florida are starting to pick up.
Lifeguards are warning people it will bring dangerous water conditions.
While the storm is coming from the Gulf side and is expected to cross over land, which will weaken it, lifeguards say the effects will still be visible in Jacksonville Beach and along the coast.
“We’re expecting 20 to 35 mph sustained winds, windows higher than that,” said 1st Lt. Casey Donnell, a supervisor at Jacksonville Beach Ocean Rescue. “It’s going to create very heavy surf, strong rip currents. All that sand on the beach is going to be turning up, so you never going to know where a rip current’s going to be.”
He recommends everyone stay out of the water until the treacherous conditions subside, which could be days.
“That’s dangerous for all swimmers,” he said. “Your experienced swimmers, everyone is going to experience heavier surf than they’re used to. And it’s going to be very deceiving. From the shore, the waves don’t look that crazy. But then once you’re in the water, it’s heavy surf pounding on you.”
News4Jax saw swimmers and surfers in the water Wednesday afternoon ahead of the storm.
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Lifeguards said while the beaches won’t legally be closed, they’re just strongly asking people to stay out because if someone gets in trouble, it’ll put rescuers at risk trying to save them.
There will be a small number of guards on duty throughout the day, patrolling and watching from the tower south of the pier. But they will not be on chairs, and rescuers are hoping to not have to go into the water after anyone.