FLORENCE

Palm Beach Daily News - - FRONT PAGE -

ble from the high tide line.

“It’s bet­ter to be safe than sorry,” said Craig Pol­lock, su­per­vi­sor of life­guards for Palm Beach. “It will be some very strong surf.”

And all the more dan­ger­ous be­cause of its lengthy du­ra­tion and the fore­cast call­ing for partly to mostly sunny skies — weather that might draw more peo­ple to the shore for a beach day not re­al­iz­ing that mus­cle-bound waves and rip cur­rents await.

With 12 to 13 sec­onds be­tween swells, peo­ple could ven­ture un­wit­tingly into the wa­ter think­ing it’s calm.

“They walk out and look and don’t see any waves and think it’s OK. Then a big set will come through,” said Steve Kaes, train­ing of­fi­cer for Palm Beach County Ocean Res­cue’s South Dis­trict.

Kaes also cau­tions against stand­ing close to the wa­ter’s edge.

“Shore break can knock peo­ple down onto the ground, break bones, dis­lo­cate joints; it’s very dan­ger­ous,” he said.

Florence’s wind speeds slowed to 120 mph Wed­nes­day, mak­ing it a Cat­e­gory 3 storm. Ear­lier in the day, it was a Cat­e­gory 4 storm with winds of 130 mph.

Na­tional Hurricane Cen­ter fore­cast­ers cau­tioned against pay­ing too much at­ten­tion to a drop in wind speeds as the storm has ex­panded in size “re­sult­ing in an in­crease in the cy­clone’s to­tal en­ergy, which will cre­ate a sig­nif­i­cant storm surge event.”

Hurricane force-winds ex­tend 70 miles from the cen­ter of the storm, while trop­i­cal-storm-force winds now reach out 195 miles from its cen­ter.

While fore­cast­ers said Florence still has a win­dow of about 24 hours for strength­en­ing, they do not ex­pect any sig­nif­i­cant in­creases in in­ten­sity.

The of­fi­cial fore­cast now pre­dicts Florence will be a 115-mph, Cat­e­gory 3 hurricane as it nears the coast of North and South Carolina on Fri­day and Satur­day.

For Florida, that means high swells will work their way down from the north­ern reaches of the state, with Jack­sonville is­su­ing a high risk of rip cur­rents for north­ern Florida and south­ern Ge­or­gia beaches on Tues­day. A warn­ing of a high risk of rip cur­rents from Day­tona Beach to Stu­art was also is­sued.

“These long-pe­riod swells can re­ally scour the beaches be­cause there’s more vol­ume of wa­ter as­so­ci­ated with each wave com­ing in,” said Matt Volk­mer, a me­te­o­rol­o­gist with the Na­tional Weather Ser­vice in Mel­bourne. “There is a lot of en­ergy.”

Pol­lock said Palm Beach may fly dou­ble red no-swim­ming flags if the surf gets too rough, but Kaes said he avoids do­ing that be­cause he fears peo­ple will just go swim some­where else away from a life­guard.

“At least if we let them go in, we can see them,” he said.

The Florence swell is fore­cast to be short-lived, dy­ing once the storm makes land­fall.

For Palm Beach County, Florence-gen­er­ated waves should linger into Satur­day. The Na­tional Weather Ser­vice in Mi­ami said ma­jor beach ero­sion is pos­si­ble in north­ern Palm Beach County.

“We’re not go­ing to get any di­rect im­pacts from Florence,” said Larry Kelly, a me­te­o­rol­o­gist in the Mi­ami of­fice of the NWS. “But we’ll still feel it on our At­lantic beaches.”

And trav­el­ers will feel the ef­fects as well. More than 800 flights were can­celed Wed­nes­day in the South­east by air­lines an­tic­i­pat­ing the ar­rival of the storm, ac­cord­ing to FlightAware. How­ever, as of Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon, Palm Beach In­ter­na­tional Air­port re­ported no can­cel­la­tions for de­part­ing flights through Fri­day.

Although it re­mains un­cer­tain ex­actly where Florence will make land­fall, coastal air­ports like those in Wilm­ing­ton, N.C., and Myr­tle Beach, S.C., are likely to be among the first af­fected.

PBIA has sev­eral daily con­nect­ing flights to Wilm­ing­ton and Myr­tle Beach.

Friends of Palm Beach is tak­ing part in the Ocean Con­ser­vancy’s In­ter­na­tional Coastal Cleanup on Satur­day.

The is­land’s cleanup is from 9 to 11 a.m. at In­dian Road; sup­plies will be pro­vided along with wa­ter and snacks. Com­mem­o­ra­tive T-shirts are avail­able on first-come, first-served ba­sis.

Vol­un­teers are asked to park on North Ocean Way and on Ara­bian and Caribbean roads. For more in­for­ma­tion, visit friend­sof­palm­beach.com.

The In­ter­na­tional Coastal Cleanup is a world­wide, one-day vol­un­teer ef­fort. Other coastal cleanups sched­uled in Palm Beach County in­clude Del­ray Beach, Juno Beach, Lake Worth and West Palm Beach. Find out more at keepp­bcbeau­ti­ful.org.

Da­mon Hig­gins / Daily News

A yel­low flag, sym­bol­iz­ing medium-haz­ard, mod­er­ate surf, flies at Mid­town Beach on Wed­nes­day. Life­guards say con­di­tions could worsen to war­rant a red or dou­ble red flag.

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