JACKSONVILLE, Fla – A hidden more dangerous type of rip current that catches swimmers off guard will be arriving on our coast next week.
No it’s not an undertow, since no such phenomenon exists, this type of rip current the, “Trident Reaper” catches swimmers off guard on tranquil weather days.
Often people avoid the water during inclement weather days when choppy surf raises the threat of rip currents. However stronger rip currents can develop when the ocean looks calm.
Starting this weekend swells from Hurricane Florence will increase the danger of blue sky rip currents.
However the real danger could hit, Wednesday September 12th, when massive waves that are space apart by long wave periods generate high rip current threats.
Under these deceiving calm ocean days, swells spaced almost a half minute apart can crash on the beach from distant storms resulting in rushing channels of water which terminate just beyond the sandbar.
This was the scenario during a sunny day on in Fernandina Beach as Hurricane Maria passed about 500 miles offshore Amelia Island. Large swells triggered sneaker rips that killed a 49 year old man.
A teenager drowned in Jacksonville beach weeks later in October as distant swells battered the coast.
Both victims drowned on a Sunday, and in fact, more than 50 percent of the rip current rescues typically occur on weekends and major holidays according to a National Weather Service study in Melbourne Florida.
Most times onshore winds get high enough to generate choppy surf and strong rip currents, people stay out of the water due to the churned surf caused by the short period wind waves.
Statistics show as winds subside and the seas become less choppy, people venture back into the surf in large numbers but long period swells result in extra water piling up on the beach and formation of dangerous rip currents when the water rushes out.
There is no current that will pull you under in the ocean; a misperception referred to as undertow. Waves can push victims below the surface but in reality, strong narrow currents flowing away from the beach carry panicked swimmers in a sinking sensation.