The V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency is alerting the territory that a high surf warning and coastal flood watch have been issued for the Virgin Islands and is advising residents and visitors to stay out of the water until these hazardous surf conditions subside.
The National Weather Service has notified the territory of extremely dangerous surf conditions across the northern exposed coastlines of the Virgin Islands, which can cause very dangerous rip currents and localized coastal flooding.
A high-surf warning is in effect until 8 p.m. Tuesday. A coastal flood watch and a high-surf advisory remain in effect from 8 p.m. Tuesday to 6 p.m. Wednesday as the seas are expected to slowly subside.
High surf warning is issued when breaking wave action results in especially heightened threat to life and property within the surf zone.
The warning indicates that dangerous battering waves will pound the shoreline, which will result in very dangerous swimming conditions, deadly rip currents and severe beach erosion. A coastal flood watch means that conditions are possible for coastal flooding causing inundation of coastal roads, low lying areas and beach erosion.
Local beach-goers should remain out of the waters until these hazardous surf conditions subside which will not be until the middle of the week.
In addition persons at the beach should be vigilant for large breaking waves surging upon the shore, which can carry people of all sizes into the ocean. Persons should avoid being near the shoreline and stay off of rock formations.
These extremely large breaking waves will generate strong and dangerous currents within the surf zone called rip currents.
These narrow outward flowing currents can carry people and animals away from the coastline and out to sea. If caught in a rip current, do not panic. Calmly remain afloat, gather bearings relative to the beach and swim parallel to the beach. Eventually the grip of this narrow current will be left.
The greatest potential for coastal flooding and beach erosion will be during times of high tide. The times and heights of the next high tides for the following locations are approximately 8 a.m. Tuesday for Magens Bay, St. Thomas and 6:45 a.m. Tuesday for Christiansted, St. Croix.
Residents are asked to take protective measures in case coastal flooding occurs or warnings are issued. This situation will be closely monitored.
According to the National Weather Service, large, long period, north northeast swells continued to affect the Atlantic waters and the Caribbean passages throughout Monday resulting in extremely dangerous surf conditions across the northern exposed coastlines of all of the local islands.
The swells are capable of producing breaking waves of 15 to 20 feet or larger along the northern exposed shoals, reefs and beaches in the Virgin Islands.
In addition, a second batch of larger north northeast swells with very long wave periods of 14 to 16 seconds will build across the local Atlantic waters Monday night peaking early Tuesday before slowly subsiding through the mid-week.
These swells will likely produce even larger breaking waves of 20 to 25 feet or larger along with frequent and strong rip currents resulting in continued extremely dangerous surf conditions.
In the past, similar swell events of these sizes and duration have also produced significant coastal flooding and beach erosion along parts of the northern coasts of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands especially during times of high tides.
Similar warnings have been issued for parts of Puerto Rico, Culebra and Vieques. Puerto Rico has reported three deaths due to drowning as of Monday morning.