daves745t

Correlation between Rip Current Deaths and Beach Replenishment?

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Just read an article on the popular NJ news site that reports this year as having the highest number of fatalities (8 - five in Monmouth, two in Atlantic and one in Cape May Counties) due to rip currents since 1998, when they began keeping records.  Moreover, that number may rise, as "meteorologists are still awaiting data on other deaths that may also turn out to be linked to strong rip currents, including deaths just this past weekend."   (I can't post links without permission, but the title of the article is "2017 is the deadliest for rip currents in N.J. since we started keeping track"). 

 

I don't know where all the deaths occurred relative to replenished beaches, but it would certainly be interesting to map and begs the question of whether there is a correlation not only in the number of deaths, but also the number of injuries and beach rescues this summer - there were over 100 reported rescues this weekend alone.  Yes, we had back to back hurricanes which created a prolonged increase in large wave action and strong currents but there always have been, and will be, hurricanes - arguably more now and in the future due to climate change.  So again the question becomes, is beach replenishment amplifying already hazardous conditions or creating hazardous conditions that otherwise would not have been but for the destruction of jetties and addition of millions of cubic yards of sand? 

 

The article states that "breaking waves remains a key ingredient to producing the powerful, narrow currents that swiftly rush away from shore, carrying anything in their path out to deeper waters."  I don't think you have to be an engineer to see that the replenished beaches do nothing to slow these waves down or lesson their force as they crash on the beach, especially where the ACOE eliminated protections that previously existed (i.e., jetties).  So it's not at all surprising to me that this is the result.  I'm also aware of studies, I believe in California (but don't quote me on that), that identified statistically significant increases in the number of neck and back injuries to surfers on replenished beaches because waves closed out and crashed more quickly and with more energy versus beaches that were not replenished.

 

This just doesn't seem to be a coincidence.....

 

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Monmouth county local born and raised, been a lifelong surfer and surf fisherman, just finished my 5th full summer lifeguarding on a very crowded beach in Monmouth county, come from a family of beach guards; and I honestly don't think beach replenishment is the reason for more drownings. My beach patrol makes hundreds of rescues a summer, every year. I believe the combination of high tropical storm activity, lack of after hours lifeguard presence and a general ignorance of bathers to the risks of swimming on unguarded beaches or inability to recognize safe swimming areas are the major factors contributing to this summer's onslaught of drownings. Furthermore, you'd be surprised at how many people jump in the ocean that legitimately do not know how to swim. I'd say more than half the people I watch go in the water over the summer cannot swim if they are in over their head. Combine that with out of towners who do not respect or understand the ocean and rip currents as well as swimming on unguarded beaches, and you get this. I'm not surprised at all at this phenomena at all.

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Posted (edited)

Oh boy......I will just say that folks seem to like to go wading on unprotected beaches more than not.....no life guards, etc. One of my sons pulled a young boy out of a rip while others watched in horror including the parents. Beach replenishment has created slow sloping beaches until the sand is reclaimed by the ocean leaving deep cuts, bowls and troughs which the average beach go'er has no clue about.

 

 

 

"Say Hi to Otto...."

Edited by Mr. Bigdeal

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I honestly never understood how rip currents kill people. Ive been caught in a couple before and the first time I admit was scary but I just swam gently to the side until I was out it, then swam back to shore. I thought this was common knowledge. Plus they are generally pretty easy to spot. 

 

As for the beach replineshment issue...  Im by no means an expert but i definetly see more rips on pure sand beaches as opposed to beaches with jetties.

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1 hour ago, JerseySwells said:

Monmouth county local born and raised, been a lifelong surfer and surf fisherman, just finished my 5th full summer lifeguarding on a very crowded beach in Monmouth county, come from a family of beach guards; and I honestly don't think beach replenishment is the reason for more drownings. My beach patrol makes hundreds of rescues a summer, every year. I believe the combination of high tropical storm activity, lack of after hours lifeguard presence and a general ignorance of bathers to the risks of swimming on unguarded beaches or inability to recognize safe swimming areas are the major factors contributing to this summer's onslaught of drownings. Furthermore, you'd be surprised at how many people jump in the ocean that legitimately do not know how to swim. I'd say more than half the people I watch go in the water over the summer cannot swim if they are in over their head. Combine that with out of towners who do not respect or understand the ocean and rip currents as well as swimming on unguarded beaches, and you get this. I'm not surprised at all at this phenomena at all.

Interesting points and observations from someone with boots on the ground and I don't necessarily disagree - but I'd still like to see some data. 

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38 minutes ago, Cfinnely68 said:

I honestly never understood how rip currents kill people. Ive been caught in a couple before and the first time I admit was scary but I just swam gently to the side until I was out it, then swam back to shore. I thought this was common knowledge. Plus they are generally pretty easy to spot. 

 

As for the beach replineshment issue...  Im by no means an expert but i definetly see more rips on pure sand beaches as opposed to beaches with jetties.

One word - panic.  You freak out, expend all your energy to the point of exhaustion trying to fight the current back in, take a couple of gulps of water...see ya.  And then, as JerseySwells notes, there are those who go into the ocean but wouldn't pass the most basic swim test - forget it.

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8 hours ago, daves745t said:

One word - panic.  You freak out, expend all your energy to the point of exhaustion trying to fight the current back in, take a couple of gulps of water...see ya.  And then, as JerseySwells notes, there are those who go into the ocean but wouldn't pass the most basic swim test - forget it.

I was in my 20s and ignorant about rips when i got caught in one while vacationing in Sicily.    Went deeper in it to save my wifes cousin who was drowning.  I wish i knew then to swim parallel to the beach and not try and fight it.   I dont know how we both made it out but we were swept what felt like over 100 yards from shore in chest high water and couldnt catch a breath from the breaks hitting us one after the other.  Kid was a strong swimmer thank god and i got under him and held him high to get his breath then we both swam in.  All the locals stood and watched us and no one helped us as we dragged ourselves out of the water until we got ankle deep.  Scary stuff.  gave me a deep respect for the beach.  I dont like wading out too far  unless i know its flat for sure and dont walk out to sand bars.  If i cant get them from where im comfy then i will find them somewhere else.  I always wear my pfd too. Even if im in shorts.

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Interesting how they only have data from 1998.

This same thing happened in 1996 and 1997 following the first round of replenishment, along with a large number of neck injuries caused by shore break.

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Always thought it was a little ironic that when your on a boat you should always wear a pfd and children 12 and under must wear a pfd even on the dock. Yet you can go into the ocean waves and riptides and it's never even thought about. 

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18 hours ago, JerseySwells said:

Monmouth county local born and raised, been a lifelong surfer and surf fisherman, just finished my 5th full summer lifeguarding on a very crowded beach in Monmouth county, come from a family of beach guards; and I honestly don't think beach replenishment is the reason for more drownings. My beach patrol makes hundreds of rescues a summer, every year. I believe the combination of high tropical storm activity, lack of after hours lifeguard presence and a general ignorance of bathers to the risks of swimming on unguarded beaches or inability to recognize safe swimming areas are the major factors contributing to this summer's onslaught of drownings. Furthermore, you'd be surprised at how many people jump in the ocean that legitimately do not know how to swim. I'd say more than half the people I watch go in the water over the summer cannot swim if they are in over their head. Combine that with out of towners who do not respect or understand the ocean and rip currents as well as swimming on unguarded beaches, and you get this. I'm not surprised at all at this phenomena at all.

I think this is an excellent explanation of why fatalities happen but misses one crucial point.

I also think more people going to the beach and into the water leads to more injuries/deaths.

I wonder what the injury rate per trip in ocean is doing.

May be lower given education about rip currents. 

 

 

And, Sudsy's comment on neck injuries due to beach replenishment is an interesting one.

I have been a salt water guy for 60 years spending 50-75 days per year at beach either swimming, fishing, body surfing (when younger) or just laying on the sand and relaxing (NY, NJ, FL, DE, mainly).

Never recall shore breaks being as much of an issue until after beach replenishment started.

 

 

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Even if you are a person who intentionally does not watch the news daily you know someone who does.  Mention going to the beach and someone you know is aware of the events that took place this summer and most likely references them.  The ocean should not require a reminder that it needs to be respected. 

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JerseySwells is absolutely correct. Unguarded beaches is definitely the #1 reason along with folks who venture out too far that don't know how to swim. I had to save a couple last year. I saw a them in distress and had to run to the nearest lifeguard headquarters. Luckily, it was on my block and a couple of the guards were still there. Took 4 guards to pull them out because they were exhausted and basically dead weight. I just happened to be looking at the couple in the water and knew something wasn't right. Afterwards, the lifeguards told me another 30 seconds and they would have been dead. My kids are very proficient swimmers; once the lifeguards leave, they are out of the water.

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9 hours ago, Sudsy said:

Interesting how they only have data from 1998.

This same thing happened in 1996 and 1997 following the first round of replenishment, along with a large number of neck injuries caused by shore break.

The death in Cape May County was in Sea Isle: a guy, the poor bastard, broke his neck bodysurfing and drowned. I heard through the grapevine that it took 45 minutes for the medics to get to the beach, and that the guy was dead when they pulled him out of the water, but the lifeguards kept giving him fake CPR on the sand because they didn't want all the people ogling -- this on a very crowded beach on a Sunday -- to realize that the guy had already passed. 

 

What made this death so unusual was that it happened at a guarded beach, and this guy was a very experienced swimmer, and a local: he'd been swimming at the same beach for something like 40 years. Speculation after the fact was that dredging, which had just finished in that part of Sea Isle, had caused a steep dropoff where he was bodysurfing, and a big wave slammed him right into the sand at full impact. Holy cripes. 

 

The evidence is all anecdotal at this point, but dredging could be at least partly responsible for this kind of stuff. 

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