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Rip tide warnings for Gulf beaches

August 27, 2012
Pine Island Eagle

At 8 a.m., Tropical Storm Isaac was located 185 miles west-southwest of Fort Myers.

Maximum winds are 65 mph and the storm is moving to the WNW at 14 mph.

At the coast, higher winds and waves will generate a high risk of rip currents for most, if not all beaches. In addition, a few feet of storm surge is possible due to Tropical Storm Isaac.

The current forecast track from the National Hurricane Center continues to move the storm into the Gulf of Mexico. The storm is expected to become a hurricane overnight, and demonstrate a gradual strengthening as it moves across the Gulf of Mexico.

After an initial WNW motion, the storm will eventually turn to the northwest, then north before landfall on the Central Gulf coast. Isaac is a large storm whose effects will be felt far from the center, and despite moving away from the peninsula, strong winds and rain continue to be felt in the peninsula. Tropical Storm warnings are still in effect for the Keys and much of the Gulf Coast due to the potential for tropical storm force winds and some storm surge. A hurricane warning is also in effect for the coastline of the western Panhandle, from the Alabama border to Destin. For more specific information about Isaac, visit the National Hurricane Center.

Rain bands from Isaac will also contain stronger cells within them that have a potential for damaging winds, as well as isolated tornadoes. As Isaac carries on, the largest risk for severe weather will shift northward up the peninsula, and towards the Panhandle. For more specific information on severe weather risk as well as potential Tornado Watches, visit the Storm Prediction Center.

Fact Box

What is a rip current?

Rip currents are channeled currents of water flowing away from shore at surf beaches. They typically extend from near the shoreline, through the surf zone and past the line of breaking waves. (The surf zone is the area between the high tide level on the beach to the seaward side of breaking waves.)

How do rip currents form?

Rip currents form when waves break near the shoreline, piling up water between the breaking waves and the beach. One of the ways this water returns to sea is to form a rip current, a narrow stream of water moving swiftly away from shore, often perpendicular to the shoreline.

How big are rip currents?

Rip currents can be as narrow as 10 or 20 feet in width though they may be up to ten times wider. The length of the rip current also varies. Rip currents begin to slow down as they move offshore, beyond the breaking waves, but sometimes extend for hundreds of feet beyond the surf zone.

How fast are rip currents?

Rip current speeds can vary. Sometimes they are too slow to be considered dangerous. However, under certain wave, tide, and beach shape conditions the speeds can quickly become dangerous. Rip currents have been measured to exceed 5 mph, slower than you can run but faster than you or even an Olympic swimmer can swim.

Are all rip currents dangerous?

Rip currents are present on many beaches every day of the year, but they are usually too slow to be dangerous to beachgoers. However, under certain wave, tide, and beach shape conditions they can increase to dangerous speeds. The strength and speed of a rip

current will likely increase as wave height and wave period increase.

Are rip currents and undertows different?

Rip currents are not "undertow" or "riptides." These are obsolete terms. In some areas, people have used the term undertow

to describe the combination of being knocked down, pulled out, and submerged due to a lack of swimming ability and/or lack of knowing what to do to escape. This is where the myth formed that a rip current (or "undertow") pulls you under water. A rip current pulls you out, not under.

Why do some people use terms like runouts

and rip tides when you are calling them rip currents?

These terms, though once commonly used in certain regions or time periods, are now considered to be incorrect. The National Weather Service, Sea Grant, and the USLA are working together to use consistent terminology to provide a clear rip current safety message to the public.

Where should I look for rip currents?

Rip currents can be found on many surf beaches every day. Rip currents most typically form at low spots or breaks in sandbars,

and also near structures such as groins, jetties and piers. Rip currents can occur at any beach with breaking waves, including the Great Lakes.

How do rip currents result in the drowning

of swimmers?

Drowning deaths occur when people pulled offshore are unable to keep themselves afloat and swim to shore. This may be due to any combination of fear, panic, exhaustion, or lack of swimming skills. Rip currents are the greatest surf zone hazard to all beachgoers. They can sweep even the strongest swimmer out to sea. Rip currents are particularly dangerous for weak and non-swimmers.

More information about rip currents can be found at the following sites:


Source: NOAAA

A tropical wave in the far eastern Atlantic is producing disorganized thunderstorms. Some development may be possible before conditions become unfavorable, and the National Hurricane Center is forecasting a 30 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone within the next two days. A tropical wave has exited the coast of Africa, and does show some potential for slow development in the coming days. Development should be slow, and the National Hurricane Center gives only a 10 percent chance of it becoming a tropical depression in the next two days. The next name on the 2012 storm list is Kirk.

Source: Florida Department of Emergency Management



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