'Life-threatening' conditions expected at Central Florida beaches as disturbance approaches coast: NWS

As a disturbance off the coast of Florida continues to swirl, forecasters have issued multiple warnings that beachgoers should pay attention to. 

Satellite imagery showed that shower activity associated with the area of low pressure about 175 miles north-northeast of the northern Bahamas had become slightly better organized over the past 24 hours, according to the National Hurricane Center.  However, earlier data from Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft indicated that the system does not yet have a well-defined circulation.

Environmental conditions remain marginally conducive, at about 50%, for further development, and this system could become a tropical depression as it moves west-northwestward.

Even if this system doesn't develop, it's still expected to bring hazardous conditions to all of Central Florida's beaches, according to the National Weather Service office in Melbourne. That includes bands of breezy to gusty showers, isolated storms north of Cape Canaveral, and a high risk of life-threatening rip currents with large breaking waves along the coast. 

A high surf advisory is in effect until 4 a.m. Friday for the following areas in Volusia, Brevard, Indian River, St. Lucie and Martin counties:

  • Ormond Beach
  • Daytona Beach
  • New Smyrna Beach
  • Canaveral National Seashore
  • Vero Beach
  • Cocoa Beach
  • Satellite Beach
  • Melbourne Beach
  • Fort Pierce Inlet
  • Jensen Beach
  • St. Lucie Inlet
  • Hobe Sound

The surf on Thursday at Volusia and Brevard county beaches is expected to reach 5 to 7 feet. On Friday, the surf height is an estimated 3 to 6 feet. 

Photo: National Weather Service

A high rip current risk has been issued for the same areas through late Thursday night, according to the National Weather Service. A high rip current risk means that life-threatening rip currents are "likely" in the surf zone, which is the area of the beach closest to the shoreline. 

"Beachgoers should remain out of the water!" NWS Melbourne said. 

Rip current safety

Here are some safety tips about rip currents from the National Weather Service:

Before you get to the beach

  • Know how to swim
  • Check local surf zone forecast before heading to the beach

When you get to the beach

  • Swim at a lifeguard-protected beach
  • Obey all posted safety signs
  • Never swim alone
  • Stay at least 100 feet away from piers and jetties where rip currents are most common

If you get caught in a rip current

  • Relax, rip currents don't pull you under
  • Don't swim against the current
  • You could escape by swimming out of the current in a direction following the shoreline or toward breaking waves, then angle yourself toward the beach
  • Float or tread water if the current circulates back to the shore
  • Draw attention to yourself if you don't think you can reach the shore by yelling or waving for help

If you see someone in trouble

  • Get help from a lifeguard
  • Call 911 if a lifeguard isn't present
  • Try to direct the person to swim following the shoreline to escape the rip current
  • Throw the person something that floats
  • Do not enter the water without a floation device

Click here for more rip current safety tips.