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HomeNewsLocal newsHazardous Seas Around USVI and P.R. Expected Throughout Holiday Weekend

Hazardous Seas Around USVI and P.R. Expected Throughout Holiday Weekend

Powerful ocean swells are forecast to create hazardous marine conditions throughout the Christmas holiday weekend. Residents and visitors to the USVI and Puerto Rico are encouraged to use extreme caution at local beaches and in the waters surrounding the islands. Minor coasting flooding and beach erosion are possible.

“A northeasterly swell will continue to spread across the Atlantic waters and passages to maintain hazardous marine conditions and very dangerous surf and swimming conditions along the beaches in the north and east-facing beaches of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands,” according to an update on Thursday morning from the National Weather Service in San, Juan, P.R. “These conditions are still forecast to intensify into the upcoming weekend with the arrival of another northerly swell,” the update continued.

Wave heights are anticipated to remain high all weekend, with breaking waves potentially between six to nine feet and higher in some locations. Multiple marine weather alerts are currently in effect.

Wave height forecast for 8 a.m. AST on Friday from the National Weather Service in San Juan, Puerto Rico. (Image courtesy of NWS)

“A ‘High Rip Current Risk’ is in effect for all the north and east-facing beaches of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands for the rest of the work week and into the upcoming weekend,” according to the NWS. “A ‘High Surf Advisory’ remains in effect through at least Friday for the northern coasts of Puerto Rico, Culebra, and St. Croix,” the update noted.

A “Small Craft Advisory” will also remain in effect for areas around the islands for several days. Finally, a “Coastal Flood Advisory” was issued on Thursday for portions of Puerto Rico.

Several marine weather alerts have been issued for areas of Puerto Rico and the USVI. (Image courtesy of NWS)

Rip Current Safety

With the holiday season in full swing, residents and tourists across both U.S. territories are advised to remain vigilant. The NWS explained that north and east-facing coastlines should be avoided, if possible, this weekend due to the dangerous conditions, including the elevated risk of rip currents.

Rip current safety tips. (Photo courtesy of the NWS.)

Rip currents can quickly become extremely dangerous and even life-threatening for the most proficient swimmers. The NWS lists instructions (included below) for individuals caught in a rip current.

The most important factors to remember if caught in a rip current are: 

  • Relax. Rip currents don’t pull you under.
  • A rip current is a natural treadmill that travels an average speed of 1-2 feet per second but has been measured as fast as 8 feet per second — faster than an Olympic swimmer. Trying to swim against a rip current will only use up your energy — energy you need to survive and escape the rip current.
  • Do NOT try to swim directly to shore. Swim along the shoreline until you escape the current’s pull. When free from the pull of the current, swim at an angle away from the current toward shore.
  • If you feel you can’t reach the shore, relax, face the shore, and call or wave for help. Remember: If in doubt, don’t go out!
  • If at all possible, only swim at beaches with lifeguards.
  • If you choose to swim on beaches without a lifeguard, never swim alone. Take a friend who has a cell phone so that person can call 911 for help.

Stay Informed

USVI visitors and residents can locate additional information about the weather, including severe weather alerts and marine weather updates, from the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency website and the National Weather Service.

A daily weather post is also published on the Source Weather Page, where readers can view weather forecast videos.

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