Idalia brings dangerous rip currents, strong surf along East Coast as Labor Day weekend starts

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Former Hurricane Idalia is still not done with the U.S., as it’s expected to generate hazardous rip currents and strong surf along the southeastern states over much of the holiday weekend.

On Wednesday, Idalia significantly impacted Florida’s Big Bend region as it made landfall as a Category 3 hurricane. It caused widespread damage due to storm surges, flooding and wind speeds exceeding 80 mph. The storm continued to cause significant damage as it moved through southern Georgia and the Carolina coasts before heading out into the Atlantic, where it currently sits near Bermuda.

But even hundreds of miles from shore, the storm continues to send heavy surf toward the U.S. with rip current hazard warnings in effect for several states along the Eastern Seaboard. The eastern-facing beaches from Georgia down to Florida have among the highest risk when it comes to rip current risk, the FOX Forecast Center said.

“We could see some onshore winds that will be helping with the higher waves that are going to be in place,” FOX Weather meteorologist Kiyana Lewis said. “You’ll have to watch high and low tides as well.”

As we head north, areas like Myrtle BeachSouth Carolina, are under a moderate risk. There is a higher risk of rip currents from the beaches of New Jersey to Virginia due to Idalia’s storm center drifting north offshore.

“It’s because of those higher waves that are going to be kicking up a little closer towards the center of circulation,” Lewis said. “We’re looking at waves as high as 9 to 12 feet, a little closer towards the Southeast coastline, and that continues through most of the holiday weekend.”

However, beach conditions are predicted to improve by Labor Day as the post-tropical cyclone moves beyond Bermuda and farther out to sea.

Rip currents can be deadly for swimmers if you don’t know what to do

Rip currents are strong channels of water that flow quickly away from the shore. They often happen in low spots or breaks in the sandbar, and near structures like groins, jetties and piers. 

To stay safe, follow the advice of lifeguards, beach patrol flags and signs. If you get caught in a rip current, don’t panic. Yell for help and try to stay calm and afloat while waiting for assistance. 

If you need to swim out of a rip current, swim parallel to the shore and back toward the beach as much as you can. Avoid swimming directly against the current, as it can tire you out quickly.

Source: FOX Weather