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Northerly Swell Expected to Create Hazardous Marine Conditions Through End of Week

Marine weather alerts have been issued by the NWS for portions of Puerto Rico and the USVI through the end of the week due to a northerly swell and gusty winds generating choppy seas. (Photo courtesy NWS, San Juan, Puerto Rico)

A northerly swell and gusty winds are expected to generate choppy seas across the region beginning Tuesday night and lasting through the end of the week. The National Weather Service in San Juan, Puerto Rico, has issued several marine alerts.

“Pulses of a long-period northerly swell and moderate to locally strong east to northeast winds will promote hazardous seas for small craft and life-threatening rip current conditions for beachgoers starting this evening and possibly continuing through the weekend,” according to an update on Tuesday from the NWS. (A period of a swell refers to the time between breaking waves.)

The NWS has issued a High Rip Current Risk, a Small Craft Advisory, and a High Surf Advisory for portions of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The alerts, which will go into effect between Tuesday evening and Wednesday afternoon, are expected to last for several days.

An image depicting the marine weather alerts issued across the region. A High Surf Advisory was also issued after the creation of this image. (Photo courtesy NWS, San Juan, Puerto Rico)

The update from the NWS noted that by Wednesday, hazardous marine conditions and high surf up to 10 feet may increase the possibility of coastal flooding and minor beach erosion. Additionally, the seas are forecast to be dangerous for small boat operators, particularly for the “coastal waters of northern Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, Mona Passage, and Anegada Passage,” according to the NWS.

“Large breaking waves exceeding 10 feet, possibly generating high surf and hazardous swimming conditions, as well as localized coastal flooding and beach/dune erosion, are possible on Wednesday,” the NWS stated.

Wave height forecast for Thursday, April 11, at 2 a.m. AST. Waves may reach up to or exceed 10 feet during the swell event. (Photo courtesy NWS, San Juan, Puerto Rico)

Rip Current Safety Advice

The NWS update on Tuesday included information about the dangers of high surf and rip currents to help keep boaters and beachgoers safe. Rip currents, which are strong currents of water flowing very quickly away from the shore, can occur without warning and become extremely dangerous for the most proficient swimmers.

“Rip currents can sweep even the best swimmers away from shore into deeper water where it becomes difficult to return to safety,” the NWS warned. “High waves can wash over jetties and sweep people and pets onto jagged rocks. Rough surf may also knock you down, [and] minor beach erosion and localized coastal flooding may occur due to high surf,” the NWS continued.

Additional rip current safety information and tips are available on the NWS website.

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 at an average speed of one to two feet per second but has been measured as fast as eight feet per second — faster than an Olympic swimmer. Trying to swim against a rip current will only use up your energy — the 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 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.

Weather Information

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

A weather post is also published each day on the Source Weather Page and a daily weather forecast video is also available to view.



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