Weather update: Heavy surf expected at Wilmington-area beaches. Swimmers urged to use caution.

Tropical conditions 8 a.m. June 13, 2024.
Tropical conditions 8 a.m. June 13, 2024.

A low pressure system moving off the coast of Florida into the Atlantic Ocean could bring heavy surf conditions to the Southeastern North Carolina coast, according to the National Weather Service in Wilmington.

With a strong north to south longshore current, there is a moderate risk of rip currents, especially at Brunswick County beaches, through Thursday night, the weather service reported.

"Currents can sweep swimmers and surfers into rip currents, piers, jetties, and other hazardous areas," the weather service said. "It may sweep swimmers off their feet, making it difficult to return to shore."

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Weather forecast for Wilmington

  • Thursday: Partly sunny, with a high near 87. East wind 8 to 14 mph, with gusts as high as 22 mph.

  • Thursday night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 69. East wind 5 to 9 mph, with gusts as high as 15 mph.

  • Friday: Sunny, with a high near 92. North wind 6 to 9 mph.

  • Friday night: Mostly clear, with a low around 72. Southwest wind 3 to 6 mph.

  • Saturday: A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms after 2pm. Sunny, with a high near 94. West wind 5 to 7 mph becoming east in the afternoon. Chance of precipitation is 20%.

  • Saturday night: Mostly clear, with a low around 69.

  • Sunday: Sunny, with a high near 88.

  • Sunday night: Mostly clear, with a low around 69.

Low pressure impacting Florida

The low pressure system has brought torrential rains to Florida. While the low has moved off the coast, rains are continuing Thursday.

Some gradual development of the system is expected as it moves northeastward and passes by the Southeast United States coast over the next couple of days, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The chance of formation into a tropical storm is low at 20 percent, the hurricane center said.

Low pressure in Southwestern Gulf of Mexico

The National Hurricane Center is also watching a low pressure system in the Southwestern Gulf of Mexico for possible development this weekend or early next week.

The system is expected to move westward or west-northwestward, which would likely have Texas feeling the greatest impacts.

The chance of tropical formation is medium, or 40 percent, over the next seven days, the hurricane center reported.

Are you prepared for a hurricane?

Hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30. Even if this system won't pose a threat to the NC coast, it's never too early to be prepared.

GET READY: Here's what to know about hurricane preparedness if you live in the Wilmington area.

What is a rip current?

According to the U.S. Lifesaving Association, rip currents are channelized currents of water flowing away from shore at surf beaches. Often these currents move swimmers far from shore before they realize it, taking them into deeper water. This can cause fear and distress as the swimmers attempt to make it back to shore.

How to identify a rip current

Rip currents can be difficult to spot, but beachgoers should look for water that is darker in color, choppy and leaves a break in the incoming wave pattern. They form at low spots or breaks in sandbars, piling up water between the breaking waves and the beach. The water returns to sea through the rip current. Another clue may be a line of foam, seaweed or debris moving seaward.

What to do

If you find yourself caught in a rip current, do not swim against the current.

While it may be difficult to do, the U.S. Lifesaving Association says swimmers should "relax," noting the rip current will not pull them under. Swimmers should try swimming out of the current in a direction following the shoreline, or toward breaking waves, then at an angle toward the beach.

The U.S. Lifesaving Association notes if the current circulates back toward the shore, floating or treading water may be a good way to get out of the current.

Finally, if you feel you are unable to reach shore, draw attention to yourself by yelling for help and waving to those on the shore.

This article originally appeared on Wilmington StarNews: Tropical weather update for Wilmington, NC: Heavy surf, rip currents possible