Rip current safety/beach banner photograph melange for NWS Brownsville
Rip Current Forecasts and Information

Rip current information can be found daily from local National Weather Service Offices that serve the Gulf and Atlantic Coast. Some offices, such as the National Weather Service Office in Miami, provide a graphical outlook for rip current risk each day, as well as the standard text hazardous weather outlook and surf zone forecast. NWS Brownsville/Rio Grande Valley provides daily text rip current information through the Beachcast (Click on the "Beachcast" tab below Top News of the Day), Surf Zone Forecasts, and Hazardous Weather Outlooks. This information is issued between 4 and 6 AM each morning, and updated as necessary through the day as conditions warrant. In addition to the links above, the Surf Zone Forecast and Hazardous Weather Outlook are available by listening to NOAA All Hazards Radio, broadcasting at 162.55 MHz from Brownsville and 162.40 MHz from Pharr, and 162.425 MHz from Rio Grande City* (*Hazardous weather outlooks may not include coastal information each day).

Risk Factors
The rip current risk each day is based on several factors that operational staff at the National Weather Service office serving Brownsville and the Rio Grande Valley have determined are important in the development of rip currents. These factors are oceanographical, meteorological, and astronomical in nature. Oceanographical factors include swell direction and swell height. Swells that impact the lower texas coast directly; generally, perpendicular or from the northeast, which favors movement toward the coast. After determining what direction the swells will be coming from, the possibility for higher swells that will produce higher breaking waves at the coast is assessed.

The meteorological factor considered is wind waves. Generally, the stronger the winds along the Lower Texas coast, the higher the waves. Higher wind waves typically result in higher breaking waves at the coast.

The astronomical factor considered is the moon phase. If there is a full or new moon, when the alignment of the sun, earth, and moon are in line, the tidal pull of the Sun combines with the tidal pull of the moon, resulting in an additional gravitational pull on the earth and higher tides at the coast.

After weighing and combining all of these factors, the rip current risk is determined. These risks are categorized as Low, Moderate, or High, and designed for the Cameron County beaches from South Padre Island to Boca Chica, though they may be used for persons venturing north toward the Port Mansfield jetties and beyond.

  • A low risk means marine conditions do not support the development of rip currents. However, rip currents are possible, especially in the vicinity of the South Padre Island (Isla Blanca and/or Boca Chica) jetties. Beachgoers should know how to swim and heed the advice of the beach patrol.
  • A moderate risk of rip currents means marine conditions support stronger or more frequent rip currents. Beachgoers should swim with a non inflatable flotation device, such as a life jacket or boogie board. Poor swimmers should remain in water knee deep or less.
  • A high risk of rip currents means frequent life-threatening rip currents are expected. Most swimmers should remain in water that is waist deep or less, and poor swimmers should remain in water knee deep or less.

The daily rip current risk is provided to the public in the surf zone forecast, mentioned earlier. The surf zone forecast also gives additional information about conditions that can be expected at the coast, including tide information, ultraviolet index, surf water temperature, ambient air temperature, weather conditions (rain or no rain), and wind speed and direction. Moderate or higher risk will be carried in the hazardous weather outlook, and starting in May, significant threats, either from risk alone or the combination of risk and expected crowds at the beach, will be provided in an experimental Rip Current Statement.

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