Cristobal prompts rip current, wave advisories from Florida to New Jersey


Tropical Storm Cristobal track forecast from the National Hurricane Center (yellow) along with watches, warnings, and advisories along the East Coast from the National Weather Service. (Weather Underground)

Though Tropical Storm Cristobal is expected to remain off-shore, its impacts are far-reaching along the East Coast as it tracks north through the Atlantic. For those getting in that one last beach vacation before schools starts, these hazards are worth paying attention to.

Red flags are flying and rip current statements have been issued for many of the beaches along the U.S. coast, as strong winds from the northeast are pushing large waves toward the shore, in addition to waves and swells created by Tropical Storm Cristobal. These winds will continue as Cristobal intensifies and tracks northeast over the next five days.

High surf could also be a risk for swimmers, as waves reach three to five feet on Monday, and possibly higher as the storm moves north.

According to National Weather Service meteorologist Mitchell Gaines, the rip current threat will continue through the rest of the week in the Mid-Atlantic as Cristobal’s winds generate high waves. “Even if there’s not as much in terms of wind, higher seas can lead to rip currents,” said Mitchell. And beach-goers should always pay attention to posted signs even when there are no flags posted. “Objects along the shoreline may create localized rip currents even when the waves and wind are relatively quiet,” he said.

(Weather Underground)
Rip current statements and small craft advisories (light green) have been issued along the East Coast. (Weather Underground)

Rip currents form as waves hit the shoreline and water piles up. The water moves horizontally along the shore until there’s an area of weakness in the waves, at which point a current flowing away from the shore will form. These currents can pull swimmers away from the shore in no time, and they often struggle against the force trying to swim back, expending a lot of their energy.

If you’re ever caught in a rip current, remember to swim parallel to shore until you’re out of it, and then you can swim back to the beach. It’s also probably a good idea to wave your hands around to alert lifeguards that you are struggling.

In addition to the rip current threat, small craft advisories have been issued for the coastal waters from Florida to New Jersey. In the water off the Mid-Atlantic shore, waves will reach three to five feet, with northeast winds of 15 to 20 knots, gusting to 25 knots. Waves were reaching closer to 10 feet, so Tropical Storm Cristobal tracks north, waves in the Mid-Atlantic will likely increase in size over the coming days.

Angela Fritz is an atmospheric scientist and The Post's deputy weather editor.
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Angela Fritz · August 25