BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – Beachgoers on Florida’s east coast are urged to stay out of the water this week as conditions are anticipated to deteriorate because of two tropical systems.
A warning was issued for coastal Volusia, Indian River, St. Lucie, Martin and Brevard counties with rip current risk and rough surf anticipated to last through late Monday. These dangerous conditions are a result of Hurricane Franklin, which is out in the Atlantic and expected to head toward Bermuda.
Franklin grew to a Category 4 hurricane on Monday evening, raising concerns over the amount of rip currents and life-threatening surf seen along the southeast U.S.
Meanwhile, Idalia — forecast to become a major hurricane — is headed toward Florida and expected to pass over the extreme southeastern Gulf of Mexico by early Tuesday and reach the Florida’s western coast on Wednesday.
Idalia will move across Florida and head toward southeastern Georgia later this week.
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In Brevard County, Sheriff Wayne Ivey and Emergency Operations Director John Scott said Idalia could bring 25 or 30 mile per hour wind with gusts around 45 miles per hour, but low rainfall is expected.
“This storm is not going to impact us as much as it is other parts of the state, but we wanted to make sure that everybody knows what to be prepared for,” Sheriff Ivey said during a Facebook Live update Monday.
The sheriff said neither Idalia nor Franklin are expected to interrupt any public services including schools.
The combination of Franklin and Idalia will create dangerous rip currents and increased beach erosion, officials said.
A rip current is the narrow stream of water moving away and oftentimes perpendicular to the shoreline.
Rip currents most typically form at low spots or breaks in sandbars. They also tend to form near piers or jetties.
Mike Cubrin, visiting Daytona Beach from Ohio, said Monday that staying aware is the key.
“If you start getting pulled under, hold your breath and try to swim horizontally.,” he said. “It’s the best way to fight a rip current. Don’t try to fight it. Stay calm in the situation and don’t overreact.”
Anthony Sierra, of Seminole County, was at Daytona Beach with family on Monday.
“Definitely take those warnings seriously. Obviously, the water is very powerful,” Sierra said. “If you want to get wet a little bit, I wouldn’t go out too deep -- just nothing past your waist.”
At the Cocoa Beach Pier, the Mansfield brothers from London said the undertow from Franklin is much stronger than any surf on English beaches.
“It feels like something’s pulling you from your feet; someone’s just yanked your feet away,” surfer Nathan Mansfield said.
How to spot a rip current
It is easier to spot a rip current if you are up high.
- Look for a narrow gap of darker, calmer between breaking waves or whitewater.
- A channel of churning, choppy water
- A line of foam, seaweed or debris moving out to sea
How to escape
It is important to note that rip currents do not drag you under water, they pull you away from the beach.
If you find yourself caught in a rip current, the most important thing to do is not panic as this can quickly lead to exhaustion. Getting out of a rip current is simple if you are thinking clearly.
- Do not swim against the current (straight back to the beach)
- Since these swiftly moving channels of water are mostly narrow, about 10-20 ft, you can swim out of them by swimming parallel to the beach in either direction.
- If you find yourself not able to escape the rip current, calmly tread water. Rip currents tend to weaken offshore. Once you are in a weak point, swim back to shore.
- If you feel like you are unable to escape the rip current, face the beach and get the attention of a lifeguard of people on the beach by waving your arms and yelling.
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