Friday, August 21, 2009: Waves: 3- to 5-feet and building rapidly. Water clarity: Good. Water temps: Upper 70s.
It has begun. Powerful groundswells have already begun to arrive, somewhat ahead of schedule. This is going to be a fierce swell, possibly topping a consistent 8 feet with larger to much larger sets. The buoy reports I was reviwnign this a.m. are already getting rocked.
I reemphasize the fact that Hurricane Bill’s waves are unblocked. Often, southerly storms (tropical and otherwise) go further west in the tropics and the hook of the Carolinas (Hatteras) shields us from the first swells -- and even reduces the overall swell size of hurricanes moving parallel to the coastline. Bill is essentially turning directly toward us, though at a goodly distance away. It’s aiming all its wave action right at the Mid-Atlantic States. And the waves will linger. I can’t imagine this swell settling all the way down until the middle of next week, even though the storm will be long gone. That’s due to a phenomenon whereby the storm stirs the ocean so much that in its wake there is a lingering generation of wave action.
Talking with the Weather Service this a.m., we’ll be going with moderate rip currents alerts this morning with high rip current alerts by later in the day. That is actually almost 12 hours ahead of the original schedule, which is an indication of where this swell is going size-wise.
Small craft should already use extreme caution around the inlets and realize the head-out this a.m. could be fairly easy but if you make a long day of it things could turns hairy to downright hazardous when trying to get back in later in the day.
I’ll also give that much-repeated warning that hurricane swells are notorious for going temporarily small or even seemingly flat, sometimes for up to 3 or 4 minutes, then totally letting loose -- as if the ocean stored up for a monster set. Taking a quick look out the inlet and seeing what seems to be just normal waves action can be a killer misread.
While the concept of a rogue wave is a very real thing out at sea, it is NOT an onshore phenomenon. I bring that up because one fairly recent boating fatality was attributed to a “rogue wave” when in reality it was the exact phenomenon I mentioned above. The captain failed to take into account huge hurricane swells that had momentarily settled down. Please take that swell idiosyncrasy into account if transiting the inlets today.
Surfcasting will be challenging to downright leaden by late today. Holding bottom – or even setting up along the waters edge – will be a losing battle.
It will be an ideal day to work the bay and look for the blues, fluke and occasional weakies being caught there of late. Be very aware of the hot and steamy air already over the area. That will combine with a slow-moving, almost stalled cold front to spark major T-storms. Due to the lack of steering currents, those storms could linger until they literally rain (and lighting) themselves out.