Cold Water, Hot Tempers

Beach umbrellas ocean

These days, CBS News Correspondent Jim Acosta reports, catching a wave on the East Coast could mean catching a cold.

A few days ago, lifeguards at New Jersey's Sandy Hook beach rescued a young boy who was overwhelmed by unusually cool water temperatures and passed out. Late last month, Carmen Kay's kids outright refused to go swimming there.

"They sit down right next to me and say, 'Mommy, it's too cold,'" she told CBS News.

Scientists are now studying why the surf is taking a dip, from water temperatures that should be in the 70's to sometimes reaching lows in the 50's.

Rutgers University oceanographer Bob Chant is calling it a severe case of coastal "upwelling."

It happens when winds moving from the south to the north, coupled with the earth's rotation, push warm surface water away from the coast, and pull in cold water from the ocean's depths. Those depths are much more frigid this year due to heavy snows last winter.

"I got a call from South Carolina asking why the water here is so cold. So this phenomenon is happening from here all the way down the eastern seaboard," Chant told Correspondent Acosta.

It's not just cold water that's driving people away from the beach. Weather forecasters say rainfall totals are approaching seasonal records. For businesses, reports Acosta, the summer has been a bummer.

Ed Segall's beachside restaurant, like many businesses along the Jersey shore, is floundering because of the weather. It's the worst he's seen in 40 years.

"The guy upstairs is pulling every trick he can," he said. "The rule of thumbs is if you don't have the rent paid by July 4th, you're not going to make it. Well, here it is, the first week of August and we're in trouble."

Professor Chant says shifting weather patters should bring warmer water next week. Too bad many sun worshippers are getting tired of waiting for that perfect day at the beach.