Tropical Storm Bertha causing spike in surf injuries in Ocean City

Ocean City lifeguards have reported a spike in injuries among swimmers caught in dangerous wave breaks the past two days as Tropical Storm Bertha's passage stirs up the seas.

About 20 injuries, most of them to swimmers' shoulders and collarbones, occurred Tuesday and Wednesday when unusually powerful waves came crashing down on the beach, said Butch Arbin, captain of the Ocean City Beach Patrol.

Beachgoers have also reported unusually large tidepools taking up much of the beach.

Both are common at this point in the summer when tropical storm activity sends a surge of churned water toward the coastline, Arbin said.

"Even if it's not a named storm, it just churns up the ocean. It pushes water in front of it," Arbin said. "What we're seeing right now is a direct result of the most recent tropical activity in the Atlantic."

Bertha's passage has raised water levels along the East Coast, Arbin said, making for deeper water over the protective sandbars a few dozen yards off of the beach. Waves that would break at the sandbars continue building strength as they move toward the beach instead.

"If you're standing there and you have a ton of water crashing down on you, in some cases it's going to propel you down into the sand," Arbin said. "It's like being rear-ended in a car wreck."

Lifeguards along the length of Ocean City pulled all swimmers out of the water at noon Wednesday to explain the dangers, and would again at other points in the day, he said.

The surge of water onto the beach meanwhile also created massive tidepools that covered much of the beach, mystifying many tourists.

Arbin said both the tidepools and the surf dangers would diminish over the next day or two as the ocean calms with Bertha's departure. The storm was no longer a tropical cyclone as of Wednesday morning and was about 300 miles south of Nova Scotia.

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