With at least three drownings and dozens of rescues reported at the New Jersey Shore over the weekend as rip currents pulled swimmers out to sea, officials are warning that dangerous surf conditions will persist through the rest of the week as Hurricane Maria crawls north in the Atlantic.
The drownings and spate of rescues came as people headed to the beaches as the region basked under temperatures that defied autumn norms.
A 34-year-old man drowned in Long Branch on Saturday and a 60-year-old man drowned at Point Pleasant Beach on Sunday, NJ.com reported. New Jersey 101.5 reported that a 44-year-old woman drowned at Seaside Park on Sunday.
Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty said lifeguards, police, and Coast Guard rescue personnel pulled 35 people from the water at the Monmouth County resort alone Saturday and Sunday. Many more rescues were reported in different beach towns.
Total of 35 saves this weekend in Belmar. Here is a picture of one of them: pic.twitter.com/IfI8UMl5gX
— Matt Doherty (@mattdohertynj) September 24, 2017
With beach-friendly temperatures in the forecast for the next few days — but not as hot as Sunday — the National Weather Service is warning that there is a persisting high risk of rip currents.
People should not go into the water at unguarded beaches and even then should be wary, officials say.
The latest water deaths bring to at least 15 the number of people who have drowned at the Shore since Memorial Day, many of them caught in rip currents.
The weather service is tracking Maria, which was about 300 miles south-southeast of Cape Hatteras. N.C., Monday afternoon and prompted a tropical storm warning for the Outer Banks.
The weather service says high surf, beach erosion, and a high risk for rip currents are likely for the Delaware and New Jersey coasts in the coming days as Maria heads north, but added that tropical storm force winds should stay south and east of the area.