Times of the Islands Winter 2019/20

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Presents the "soul of the Turks & Caicos Islands" with in-depth features about local people, culture, history, environment, businesses, resorts, restaurants and activities.

iptides are not the same as rip currents. Riptides develop

naturally in harbors and other protected areas of water

that are bordered by landmasses, jetties or inlets. Riptides

occur as part of the natural tidal cycle daily.

What many people may not know is that there are a

couple of days each month when tidal forces are at their

maximum, and several days when they are at their minimum.

Right around the New Moon and Full Moon, tidal

forces are maximized and the highest variation from high

to low tide is likely to occur. These are called the Spring

Tides. At the 1st and 3rd quarter of the moon, the tidal

forces are at their minimum, called Neap Tides.

What is most important to understand is that once

high tide has occurred, water begins gradually flowing

back out to sea as low tide approaches. This creates a

natural pull/current out to sea. This is where a blocking

land body or an inlet/jetty comes into play.

Let’s take a look at Bambarra Beach and Pelican Cay

where this tragedy occurred. As the water is being pulled

away from shore, the placement of Pelican Cay effectively

creates channels of strong current on either side of it as

water is sucked away from the beach. These currents can

become extremely powerful in the waters between the

offshore cay and the beach. These forces and currents

can last quite a way beyond the landmass around which

they are created. What is generally knee-deep to waistdeep

water can quickly become dangerous as the forces

of the current overwhelm unsuspecting people, pulling

them into deeper water and away from shore. It happens

quickly and suddenly, occasionally leading to tragedy.

It is important to remember, as in the case of rip

currents, if you have been pulled into open waters due to

a riptide, swim parallel to shore and at an angle toward

shore. As you swim away from the riptide source, the

effects will weaken and you should be able to safely land.

Charged with this new knowledge, prior to your next

visit take a moment to look up the tidal cycle for the days

you are vacationing in the Turks & Caicos. Review areas

where riptides or rip currents may be more common. A

few minutes of preparation can ensure the safety of you

and your family! a

Paul Wilkerson is an American meteorologist and tourist

who frequents the Turks & Caicos Islands. Along with

his wife and two daughters, the Wilkersons stay actively

engaged with Islanders throughout the year with his

Facebook page Turks and Caicos Islands Weather Info.

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Times of the Islands Winter 2019/20 23

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