A red flag flies Tuesday from the lifeguard stand at 45th Street to warn bathers of the treacherous surf. (Photo courtesy of Sea Isle City Beach Patrol)


Sea Isle City’s lifeguards are dealing with the challenge of rough surf and rip currents churned up by the one-two punch of Hurricanes Franklin and Idalia.

Although they aren’t a direct threat to the New Jersey coast, both hurricanes are expected to cause “hazardous surf conditions” at the shore for the next two to four days heading into the Labor Day weekend, the Sea Isle City Beach Patrol warns on its website.

“Larger than normal wave heights and rip currents create dangerous surf,” the website says.

As is standard practice at the shore, beachgoers are urged to enter the water only where lifeguards are present.

“We talked about keeping people more confined and closer to the lifeguard stands,” Sea Isle Beach Patrol Chief Renny Steele said of the strategy for protecting swimmers from the rough conditions.

“There is a lot of big surf out there,” he added.

Yellow flags flown from the lifeguard stands warn of moderate hazards from the surf.

Lifeguards flew red flags from their stands on Tuesday to warn swimmers of the “high hazard” from the strong surf and rip currents.

“We find that when we fly the red flag people are more cooperative and more cautious,” Steele said. “One thing is, the waves are so big that it keeps people in close (to shore).”

A westerly wind on Wednesday helped to calm the surf a bit, so lifeguards were able to fly yellow flags that indicated a moderate risk.

“The surf yesterday was more hazardous than today,” Steele said in an interview Wednesday.

After pummeling Florida as a Category 3 hurricane and then roaring through Georgia, Idalia was expected to follow a track to the Carolinas on Wednesday night before heading out to sea on Thursday. It is expected to generate rough conditions along the East Coast in the process.

“We’ll get some surf from that,” Steele said.

Big beach crowds, like these last weekend, are expected again in Sea Isle over the Labor Day holiday.

In addition, the National Weather Service has issued a rip current advisory to warn of rough surf conditions generated by Hurricane Franklin, which is moving over the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean. The rip current advisory is in effect through Thursday.

The timing of both hurricanes coincides with the conclusion of the peak summer tourism season at the Jersey Shore. Labor Day weekend is traditionally considered the unofficial end of summer and usually brings a crush of last-minute visitors and vacationers to the beach communities.

The big crowds put further pressure on the beach patrols at the shore. This is also the time of year when lifeguards who attend college and high school head back to school, creating manpower shortages.

Steele said Labor Day will be a “tough weekend” in Sea Isle because of the big crowds and fewer lifeguards.

“We’re trying to cover as much area as we can with as many (lifeguard) stands as we can,” he said of the beach patrol’s plan to protect the shoreline.

So far, there have been no major rescues conducted by Sea Isle’s lifeguards this week during the unusually rough surf, Steele said.

For the Saturday of Labor Day weekend, the beach patrol is expected to have lifeguard stands at 15 spots – 27th, 32nd, 34th, 39th, 43rd, 45th, 50th, 55th, 60th, 65th, 71st, 76th, 81st, 85th and 90th streets, although those locations may change, Steele said.

Labor Day weekend traditionally marks the unofficial end of the beach season at the shore.