National Weather Service working on ways to better communicate rip current risk

Red flags in place in Virginia Beach on July 4, 2014. (WAVY/Lavoy Harrell)

ATLANTIC BEACH, N.C. (WNCT) – “We saw the red flag. We knew that was danger,” said Jayne Woodruff, who was visiting Atlantic Beach Monday from Burlington.

“It’s rough and the under-toe is pretty rough,” added Matt Woodruff, Jayne’s son.

Monday was another day of rough surf and dangerous rip currents along the Crystal Coast.

“This last week has been very active and there’s been some strong what we call long period wave energy coming in,” explained Rich Bandy, meteorologist-in-charge at the National Weather Service in Newport. “It doesn’t necessarily produce big waves, but it’s got a lot of energy behind it and it creates a more powerful rip current.”

Bandy and his team forecast rip current risk every day. While forecasts have improved over the years, they’re only good if people get the message.

And Bandy has been working hard to get the word out.

“We met with our partners and customers like lifeguards to try to figure out how can we present this new modeling information, how can we present this new rip current information in a way that people are better going to understand,” said Bandy.

A survey put out by the National Weather Service and ECU earlier this year may have some answers moving forward.

“It’s really working in partnership with those people that get to see people coming to the beach to make sure that they’re passing on the information and awareness,” added Bandy.

It’s an approach that’s already getting results.

“I saw it on the news and my mother lives here in town so she informed me,” said Woodruff.

Bandy hopes to keep the momentum going. The results from the survey should help with that later this year.

Click here for a daily rip current forecast from the National Weather Service.