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News, Santa Monica, Ocean

National Weather Service Says High Surf Most Significant Swell Since 1996

Posted Aug. 28, 2014, 9:08 am

Staff Report

What the National Weather Service calls "damaging high surf, very strong rip currents and minor coastal flooding" were forecast in Southern California today as a result of huge swells generated by Tropical Storm Marie even though it is no longer a hurricane.

The swells produced by Marie in the eastern Pacific will continue to result in high surf along south-facing beaches through Friday, according to the NWS.  

The NWS called the high surf "the most significant southerly swell event since July 25, 1996."

Even though high surf advisories are in effect both north and south of Los Angeles, the biggest surf will occur in L.A. and Ventura counties, "with sets of between 10 and 15 feet and even isolated sets to 20 feet late this evening," according to an NWS statement.

"Surf this large will have the potential to cause structural damage and significant beach erosion," it said.

In Los Angeles County, the biggest surf is expected from Long Beach through the Palos Verdes Peninsula, including Cabrillo Beach, Point Fermin, Malibu Beach and Zuma Beach, forecasters said. In Ventura County, the areas most affected areas will be around Port Hueneme, Point Mugu, the Ventura-L.A. County line, and Oxnard.

A high surf advisory will be in effect until 6 p.m. Friday in L.A. and Ventura counties and 1 p.m. Friday in Orange County.

NWS forecasters warned that low-lying areas may experience minor flooding near times of high tide.

Additionally, "very strong rip currents and long shore currents will likely create extremely dangerous and life-threatening conditions'' for swimmers and surfers, irrespective of experience levels, the NWS statement said.

Forecasters said people who do not have to be in the water should stay on shore, off rocks and jetties and away from the water's edge to avoid being swept away by sneaker waves.

"Never turn your back to the ocean," warned the NWS statement. And if caught in a rip current, swim parallel to shore until you are free of it, it said.

Los Angeles County lifeguards reported making 118 ocean rescues by 2 p.m. Thursday, including as many as 65 in Malibu, where the massive waves attracted hordes of surfers. They made 115 ocean rescues on Tuesday, when the large waves began pounding the coast.

Long Beach officials said lifeguard rescues were up nearly 400 percent.

Lifeguards made about 10 rescues Thursday by mid-afternoon in Newport Beach, according to city spokeswoman Tara Finnigan. At Seal Beach, there were two rescues Thursday, Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Steve Concialdi said.

The Malibu Pier remained closed because the pounding surf damaged one of the pilings on Tuesday. Because of the waves, Portuguese Point, Sacred Cove, Pelican Cove and Inspiration Point in Rancho Palos Verdes will remain closed until Friday.

Officials at the Port of Long Beach said Thursday that the storm surge forced two cargo-handling companies -- Total Terminals International and Crescent Terminals -- to suspend the loading and unloading of ships.

Crescent officials reported that they were experiencing some flooding, according to the port.

Port officials said two barges broke loose from their moorings and were towed to different docks Thursday.

Catalina Express temporarily halted its runs between Long Beach and Avalon for a time Thursday because the surging seas -- waves were crashing over the breakwater at the ports -- were making it difficult to dock the big ferries. The company resumed service by late afternoon.

Most of the damage on Santa Catalina Island was along the island's low coastal areas, mostly at the Catalina Island Boat Yard and lumber yard, said Sgt. Robert Berardi of the sheriff's Avalon Station.

The Catalina Island Boat Yard where various boats are kept in dry storage for storage and repair was particularly hard hit, he said.

Boats were tossed ashore and boat structures demolished and a van was pushed onto the rocks.

The Catalina Express also ran only its smaller vessels Thursday afternoon because of problems docking the larger vessels, said Orne Carstar Phen of the harbor department, and helicopter service from the mainland was also suspended because of damage to its landing pad.

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