Breaking waves as high as 14 feet and rip currents are expected in the Virgin Islands, and the National Weather Service has issued a high surf advisory has been through Wednesday evening.
The U.S. Coast Guard issued a statement Tuesday morning advising caution at beaches in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico due to incoming dangerous high surf and rip currents in the area, with northeast winds up to 20 knots and occasional high seas.
The Coast Guard urged small craft operators to exercise caution across the local waters.
Beachgoers were advised to use extreme caution when walking near the water. The Coast Guard recommended that during this period of high surf, beachgoers remain well clear of the beach and shore where waves make landfall. Large waves and strong rip currents will also increase the risk of ocean drowning. Sneaker waves can suddenly wash people off of beaches, rocks or jetties and capsize small boats near shore. Large shore break can lead to injury and wave run-up.
In case of a distress or rescue situation, the Coast Guard Rescue Sub-Center contact number is 787-289-2041, and VHF Channel 16 is the international distress frequency to report maritime emergencies.
According to the NWS, high rip current risk will remains in effect through Wednesday evening. The most extreme risk will be on north facing beaches of St Thomas and St John.
Rip currents are powerful channels of water flowing quickly away from shore, which occur most often at low spots or breaks in the sandbar and in the vicinity of structures such as groins, jetties and piers.
The National Weather Service advisories can be found at http://www.weather.gov/wwamap/wwatxtget.php?cwa=sju&wwa=all
The Coast Guard reminded swimmers not to panic if caught in a rip current. The way to escape a rip current is to swim parallel to the shore. Once away from the force of the rip current, a swimmer can begin to swim back to the beach.
"Do not attempt to swim directly against the current, as you can become easily exhausted, even if you are a strong swimmer," the Coast Guard advised.
The Coast Guard urged mariners to always:
– Wear life jackets while on the water.
– Always have a working marine radio on board.
– Carry marine flares on board the vessel.
– Ensure bilge pumps area operational and vessels are secure for heavy winds and rains
– Stay informed. The public should be aware of weather conditions and monitor progress through local television, radio and internet. Check the current and expected weather and water conditions before heading out, and be aware the weather conditions change quickly.
– File a float plan with friends, family members and local marinas before heading out. The list should include the number of passengers aboard the vessel, vessel’s destination and expected time of return.
More information is online at http://www.uscgboating.org.