Dangerous Surf Conditions

By Pam Marcum

“My #1 rule of thumb for the beach is never turn your back on the water.”

One of the best parts of living on the coast is the beach. Millions of people enjoy sunbathing and splashing around in the surf every day. But what seems like such a great pass-time can turn into nightmare very quickly if you’re not careful. I should know, it happened to me. My #1 rule of thumb for the beach is never turn your back on the water. Those fun waves that provide so much recreation can quickly become dangerous if the conditions are right or you’re not paying attention.

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I broke my #1 rule when I tried to out-run a large wave that was building in front of me. I managed to get about half way up the beach from where I had been standing in the surf when the wave crashed into me from behind. Quickly shifting sands in the surf left my foot caught in the sand when I fell, and I ended up with a broken ankle. As bad as that sounds, it could’ve been worse. I was able to get myself out of the water and a local beach goer called for help. I have spent most of my life in and around water, much of it at the beach. No matter how experienced you are around water, it is unpredictable and must be respected.

Me, on the scooter with the boot on my broken ankle

“…we can expect more frequent winter storms that can bring hazardous conditions at the beach”

As we shift into the winter months, here in Florida we can expect more frequent winter storms that can bring hazardous conditions at the beach- particularly “Nor’easters.” According to NOAA : “A Nor’easter is a storm along the East Coast of North America, so called because the winds over the coastal area are typically from the northeast…The U.S. East Coast provides an ideal breeding ground for Nor’easters. During winter, the polar jet stream transports cold Arctic air southward across the plains of Canada and the United States, then eastward toward the Atlantic Ocean where warm air from the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic tries to move northward. The warm waters of the Gulf Stream help keep the coastal waters relatively mild during the winter, which in turn helps warm the cold winter air over the water. This difference in temperature between the warm air over the water and cold Arctic air over the land is the fuel that feeds Nor’easters.rip-currents

These high-energy storms push in excess water into coastal areas and can cause increased flooding to flood-prone areas. The energy in the water can create very powerful waves and increases the risk of rip currents forming along the beach.

These conditions can be extremely dangerous and even life-threatening and last for several days after the storm has passed. It is always a good idea to check local conditions and warnings– no matter what time of year- before heading out for a day of fun at the beach.


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Winter time in Florida is beautiful and with over 1,300 miles of coastline, there are plenty of wonderful beaches to visit. A quick check of local conditions and respect for the water will help to make your time at the beach safe so you can enjoy many more!

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