High surf, rip currents bring closure of 4 LI beaches

State officials said three state park beaches closed to swimming Thursday because of rough ocean waters are "fully open" Friday, Aug. 29, 2014, for the start of Labor Day weekend. (Credit: Newsday / Chris Ware)

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Dangerous rip currents and high surf caused by Hurricane Cristobal forced the closure of several Long Island beaches to swimmers Thursday, disrupting for some the start of the summer's last hurrah.

Swimming was prohibited at Jones Beach State Park, Hither Hills State Park and Robert Moses State Park, said George Gorman Jr., deputy regional director of the state Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. The beaches are expected to reopen Friday.

In Long Beach, the city's chief of lifeguards closed its beaches to swimming because of the rip currents and rough surf and Suffolk County closed the outer beach at Smith Point County Park.

"The conditions are extremely rough strong undercurrents," Gorman said Thursday.

Gorman said flooding closed field 6 at Jones Beach for about two hours. and Hither Hills, where most of the beach front was underwater for a short period.

The closures didn't affect attendance, Gorman said, adding that Jones Beach saw 88,000 visitors and Robert Moses 13,500 visitors.

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He said visitors to the two beaches flocked to see surf conditions and take pictures of the waves, making up for those who stayed away. A handful of people stayed away from Hither Hills, but "hundreds and hundreds" of surfers went to Montauk Point State Park and Camp Hero State Park, he said.

At Robert Moses, beachgoers generally appreciated the safety precautions -- or had no interest in taking a dip in the ocean.

"I don't want my kids to drown, or myself, so I understand," said Jerry Baratta, 48, of St. James.

Baratta, who brought his daughters Morgan, 8, and Leigh, 10, and son, Teddy, 7, said he learned from the parking attendant about the swimming restriction.

"I said can we at least put feet in the water?" he said.

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But the assistant high school principal in Carle Place was ready for the day. He'd packed pails, a beach ball, football -- and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

April Brookins, 54, of Brooklyn, only needed her beach chair -- which she keeps in her car yearround -- and her Harper's Bazaar magazine

"I rarely go in the water," said Brookins, a law firm office manager who drove a car with a license plate that read "BITHESEA" to Robert Moses.The National Weather Service said swells from Cristobal posed the risk of dangerous rip currents and high surf for Long Island's Atlantic beaches, with possible waves and surfs between 5 to 10 feet.

Remi Cousin, 33, a climatologist at Columbia University, took a 6:45 a.m. train from Harlem to ride the waves at Robert Moses with his body board. "It looks more scary than it is," he said.

Surfers descended on Long Beach Thursday despite the chief of lifeguard's order.

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"We advise them not to, but they're doing so at their own risk," city spokesman Gordon Tepper said.

Dangerous rip currents and high surf were expected until Friday; a high-surf advisory was in effect until early morning for southern portions of Brooklyn, Queens and Nassau and Suffolk counties.

Mother Nature rules the day, said Kerry Troi, 54, of Melville. "I enjoy Mother Nature and you sometimes have to take cues" from her. She'd wanted to swim but was content sunbathing at Robert Moses.

With John Asbury

and Gary Dymski

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