Dangerous conditions closes beaches, grounds Westpac chopper

CONTINUING strong winds have left many North Coast beaches closed due to dangerous conditions and grounded the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter in Newcastle overnight.

The Lismore-based rescue helicopter spent the night in the Newcastle sister service hanger due to safety concerns around the bad weather.

The crew had been tasked to an incident in Crescent Head where a child riding a bike was hit by a car on Wednesday afternoon.

The patient was taken by road ambulance to the Port Macquarie Hospital and later transporter to John Hunter Hospital by the Westpac Helicopter.

A large majority of the Northern Rivers beaches have also been closed due to bad weather and dangerous surf conditions.

Northern NSW Surf Life Saving coordinator Scott McCartney said conditions on open beaches like Ballina, Lennox Head, Pottsville and Hasting Points were "quite rough".

"On the open beaches the waves are up to about four, five foot at the moment," he said.

"They are breaking quite heavy, and we've got a very low tide at the moment, so it's shallow water out where the waves are breaking making the waves really strong and dumpy."

"On the open beaches it is quite dangerous with that large swell and a lot of water moving around and quite a lot of rips up and down the coastline,

"If you are looking for a swim, beaches like Kingscliff up on the Tweed and Byron Main Beach are a lot more protected and it's actually quite nice still to go down and swim."

On Monday, two teenage girls had to be rescued from dangerous surf conditions while swimming at the unpatrolled Shelley Beach in Ballina.

A lifeguard had to swim out 300m and then 500m to rescue the two girls.

"A lot of people underestimate how dangerous the ocean can be, even great swimmers," Mr McCartney said.

He said the swell is expected to drop-off by Saturday, meaning the majority of beaches may be open for the weekend.

Bureau of Meteorology senior climatologist Agata Imielska said the strong southerly winds were the result of a low pressure system over the central Tasman Sea moves east and a strong, slow-moving high pressure system near Tasmania extends a ridge across the western Tasman Sea.

"South-easterly winds are generally a bit cooler… and that's one of the things that's driving the swells," she said.

"It looks like by Saturday the winds will really start to drop off.

"Today will really be the worst of it. Tomorrow it will be a bit gusty and as we move into Saturday it will really drop off."


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