Fall transition weather, high risk of rip currents

A high pressure system over the eastern third of the U.S. will linger through much of the week leaving South Florida with drier air and slightly cooler than normal temperatures for this time of year.

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National Weather Service forecasters said “summer-to-fall transition” weather with low rain chances but still warm temperatures in the low to mid-80s is expected through at least Friday.

The high in West Palm Beach today is forecast to be 84 degrees, which is 2 degrees below normal. Tuesday will be similar with a 20 percent chance of rain.

But forecasters are also warning of gusty winds creating a high risk of rip currents along Palm Beach County beaches through 8 p.m. tonight and possibly tomorrow.

East-northeast winds sustained at 15 mph and gusting to 22 mph were observed this morning at Palm Beach International Airport.

The moderate winds pile water onshore, which helps create channels of water trying to escape back to the sea. Swimmers who get caught in these channels should try to swim parallel to shore until they reach an area where it is easier to swim to the beach.

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Winds are forecast to remain brisk through Wednesday with gusts Tuesday up to 26 mph.

Charlie Paxton, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Tampa who has studied rip currents throughout the U.S., said Florida has the highest number of rip current-related deaths because it is a vacation hot spot, with a lengthy coastline and warm waters.

Tourists can overestimate their swimming ability and underestimate the power of the ocean.

“One of the biggest problems is people treat the ocean as they would a swimming pool, especially when the waves are smaller,” Paxton said. “They think it’s gentle and they get pulled out a little bit and they panic.”

 

 

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