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Surf's down: Big California waves from Hurricane Marie to fizzle out

Swells off south-facing beaches to get smaller as effects of Hurricane Marie diminish

Large waves from Hurricane Marie that have been pounding the Southern California coast are expected to diminish by Friday evening, according to the National Weather Service.

A large south swell generated by Hurricane Marie, now a tropical storm, will continue to affect south- and southeast-facing beaches in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, but in a far less dramatic way than in days past, during which waves as high as 25 feet attracted thousands of spectators to local beaches. For Friday, though, beachgoers can expect breakers of four to seven feet, with some reaching up to 10 feet, according to the National Weather Service.

Swells generated by Marie have been pounding the coastline this week, destroying a historic lifeguard building in Point Mugu State Park and tearing through the boatyard at Catalina Island’s Pebbly Beach. Huge waves damaged pilings at the Malibu Pier and almost caused a man to drown at Venice Beach on Thursday evening.

Hurricane Marie, which churned off the coast of Baja California, was downgraded to a tropical storm late Wednesday and continues to weaken as it moves over the colder water of the eastern North Pacific Ocean, according to the National Hurricane Center.

As of Thursday evening, Marie was centered about 920 miles west-southwest of San Diego, with maximum sustained winds of 40 mph.

At its peak, Marie was a Category 5 hurricane — the highest category on the Saffir-Simpson wind scale — with winds over 157 mph, said Stuart Seto of the weather service bureau in Oxnard. Marie was the first Category 5 hurricane in the eastern North Pacific basin since Hurricane Celia in 2010, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Even though it has moved away from the North American coast, the waves it generated a few days ago are still reaching Southern California, Seto said.

The storm could still create strong rip currents, strong long-shore currents and dangerous swimming conditions, the weather service warned.

On Friday, there also will be a risk of so-called sneaker waves, so named for appearing out of nowhere and washing people off the shoreline. The threat of such waves is higher on steeply sloped beaches and on rocks and jetties near the water’s edge.

The south-facing beaches most affected by the lingering swells include Port Hueneme and Point Mugu in Ventura County and Zumu Beach, the Malibu area and Long Beach through Palos Verdes in Los Angeles County.  

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