Billís impact to be felt along coast

Boaters and swimmers face warnings as strong Hurricane Bill rumbles north but offshore this weekend

BY ZACHARY HOFFMAN | BALTIMORE | August 21, 2009


Hurricane Bill is not projected to make landfall in the U.S., but the strong category two hurricane may still create dangerous conditions on the east coast and in Bermuda as it passes by.

Steve Pfaff, warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service (NWS) in Wilmington, N.C., said, “Swells are going to start reaching the east coast this evening and intensify overnight.”

The largest threats posed by the hurricane are these swells, treacherous conditions at inlets due to a falling tidal cycle meeting the swells, and strong rip currents.

According to Pfaff, speeds within the rip currents can exceed four knots, which is faster than an Olympic swimmer can swim. If someone should find himself or herself in a rip current, the advice is to swim parallel to the shore until free from the current, then follow the waves to shore.

“One of the biggest problems that you have with a hurricane that’s far off,” said Pfaff,” The weather is typically nice; since its sunny, they assume the surf conditions are the same and that’s not the case.”

Lieutenant Art Naidzith of Jacksonville Beach, FL Fire and Rescue said, “To the untrained eye, it looks like a normal day, better than a normal day because there are big waves breaking off shore and calm waters in-shore.”

The last week before school starts is pretty busy for Jacksonville and other beach locations, but Naidzith still expects a pretty big crowd despite red flags.

Red flags strongly urge swimmers to stay out of the ocean; some lifeguards refer to them as no swimming flags.

Lifeguards in Nags Head, N.C., are also flying their no swimming flags today and encouraging all beach goers to exercise a high degree of caution because they are expecting strong surf and dangerous rip currents, according to Nags Head Fire and Rescue.

Nags Head is also expecting a normal beach crowd while there is low tide, from 9 a.m. through to the afternoon.

In 1995, Hurricane Edouard had no direct impact on the coast, but all along the east coast there were deaths associated with the hurricane and almost every case was due to rip currents.

“That’s what has us so concerned with this hurricane,” said Pfaff.

Bermuda is also expected to miss a direct impact by Hurricane Bill, but the National Weather Service has issued tropical storm warnings for Bermuda and large swells, as high as 35 feet are expected.

“The wind has started to pick up,” said a representative of Saint Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church in Bermuda. “Everybody is getting ready for whatever.”

As all eyes are watching the path of Hurricane Bill, the rest of the tropical storm activity in the Atlantic Basin has died down for the moment. There are only remnants of the remnants of Ana crossing southern Florida.

“I don’t know if it is really identifiable anymore, maybe as moisture,” said Parks Camp, meteorologist for the NWS in Tallahassee, F.L.

According to Camp there is a absolutely no chance that Ana will reform in the Gulf of Mexico.

Camp said, “Right now we’re just looking at regular sea breeze thunderstorms.”


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