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NWS: Hurricane Gert brings high rip current risk at ocean beaches

A surfer rides the waves at Long Beach

A surfer rides the waves at Long Beach on Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017. A high rip current warning is in effect for Long Island ocean beaches through Wednesday evening and possibly into Thursday. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Incoming swells from Hurricane Gert caused the National Weather Service to warn of a high rip current risk at Long Island and New York City ocean beaches through Wednesday evening and possibly into Thursday.

Long Beach closed its beach to swimmers Wednesday morning “due to rip currents and the size of the waves,” according to a message from Lifeguard Chief Paul Gillespie on its website. He said the beach would be reopened to swimmers when it was considered safe.

Restrictions were also imposed at three Atlantic Ocean state park beaches — Hither Hills in Montauk, Robert Moses in Babylon and Jones Beach in Wantagh — because of the rip currents, said George Gorman, state parks deputy regional director for Long Island.

Beachgoers are “only allowed to wade into the water into their ankles or their waist, but swimming is prohibited,” Gorman said. He said the restrictions were expected to remain in effect throughout the day throughout high tide at least.

“The surf is getting rougher and rougher,” Gorman added.

By Wednesday evening, the storm had drifted northeast, and was about 410 miles south of Halifax, Nova Scotia, according to the National Weather Service based in Upton.

“There’s a high risk of rip currents for ocean-facing beaches,” said Jay Engle, a meteorologist with the weather service’s Upton bureau. “The risk is for beaches on Long Island and New York City — southern Queens and Brooklyn.”

The weather service said the risk could last into Thursday morning.

The service’s warning described rip currents as “powerful channels of water flowing quickly away from shore which occur most often at low spots or breaks in sandbars and near structures such as groins, jetties and piers.”

Engle explained that rip currents present a real danger for swimmers, surfers and anyone else, including boaters, venturing out into or onto the water in the affected areas.

“We’re getting a southerly swell that’s making for rough waters, and waves are running 5 to 8 feet,” Engle said Wednesday morning. “The die-hards [surfers] like to jump into that, but it’s pretty dangerous,” Engle warned. “The risk could linger into [Thursday] — until Gert gets north and east we could have high rip currents for a couple of days.”

The Suffolk County Police Marine Bureau received a report at 12:20 p.m. Wednesday that a mother and her three children were “in distress” because of the rip current off the beach in Ocean Ridge adjacent to Davis Park, a spokesman said. But he said the four were safely returned by other beachgoers.

The weather service made the following suggestions for dealing with a rip current risk and what to do if caught in one:

  • Swim near a lifeguard;
  • If caught in a rip current, relax and float;
  • Do not swim against the current;
  • If possible, swim in the direction following the shoreline;
  • If you are unable to escape a rip current, face the shore and call or wave for help.

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