Toms River officials say the beaches in Ortley Beach will be guarded this weekend, but it is unlikely that any swimming will be allowed, with “red flags” posted at beach entrances.
“We’re going to have guards on the beach this weekend, but we’re going to have red flags,” said Toms River Mayor Maurice “Mo” Hill. “Hurricane Lee is out in the ocean and we’re going to have rough surf. Labor Day weekend was just a disaster with the saves and rescues and drownings that occurred. As the season progresses, you have college kids go back to class and we become downsized in staff.”
While Hurricane Lee poses virtually no threat to New Jersey in terms of a landfall, the powerful storm is forecast to produce intensively rough surf at the Jersey Shore, leading dozens of towns to close their beaches to swimming just two weeks after Labor Day weekend.
The National Weather Service’s Surf Zone Forecast is calling for a “high” probability of rip currents in the surf off Ocean County for at least the next two days, with waves continuing to build. The NWS issues its Surf Zone Forecast in two-day increments.
For Thursday, the surf carries a “high” risk of rip currents and waves in the surf zone of 4-6 feet. The water temperature is in the upper 60s and north winds will move at about 15 m.p.h.
For Friday, the rip current risk is also considered “high” with waves building even larger, to 6-8 feet. Water temperatures will remain in the 60s, but the weather will become breezier (despite sunshine) with north winds 20-25 m.p.h.
According to the NWS, a “high” rip current risk means “life-threatening rip currents are likely in the surf zone.”
Over the past two weekends, a waning number of lifeguards – and ultimately water rescue teams – have had to deal with numerous rescues and even some drownings off beaches throughout Ocean and Monmouth counties.
“All along the Jersey Shore it was a difficult weekend,” said Hill. “With the hurricane offshore and the projected tides and rough surf, we’ll have guards, but I think the beaches should be red-flagged. It’s not going to be safe for swimming.”