Southern California prepares for high surf, coastal flooding

Southern California prepares for high surf, coastal flooding
A surfer flies through the air as he punches out of one of the large storm-generated waves rolling through Southland beaches. (Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)

Huge swells generated by Hurricane Marie are expected to batter the Southern California coastline on Wednesday, producing eye-popping waves for the bravest of surfers, while at the same time putting low-lying seaside communities at significant risk of flooding and beach erosion.

High surf is expected to be between 8 and 10 feet, but has the potential of reaching up to 15 feet, said Dave Bruno, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.


"This is not a run-of-the-mill surf event," he said. "Everybody should stay out of the water."

Dangerous surf could also cause local flooding during high tide, which will peak at 11 a.m., he said.

The coasts of Long Beach, Port Hueneme and Malibu, Cabrillo and Zuma beaches could see flooding, Bruno said.

Wednesday's high surf should be the "biggest" seen in many years, he added.

In Seal Beach, where rushing tide waters flooded the ground levels and garages of several homes Tuesday night and early Wednesday, officials were busy building sand berms from the pier to 14th Street to protect against the high tide.

Destructive waves rose 3 feet over the boardwalk overnight, causing seawater to enter home doorways and garages, said Capt. Steve Concialdi of the Orange County Fire Authority. An assessment team planned to inspect the area Wednesday morning, he said.

Firefighters also plan to position 6,000 sandbags in front doorways along the beach, he said.

Strong waves will extend from Santa Barbara County to northern San Diego County throughout Wednesday, forecasters said.

Meanwhile, officials repeated warnings for members of the public to keep their distance from the huge surf. Although high surf is expected to continue through Friday, Bruno said the strongest set will likely hit the Los Angeles and Ventura county coastline Wednesday.

Though experienced swimmers and surfers who hit the beach equipped with fins and an understanding of rip currents and other ocean hazards would "probably be in pretty good shape," most people would be better off staying on the shore, during that time, said Newport Beach lifeguard Battalion Chief Jim Turner.

Near Malibu Pier on Tuesday, an unconscious surfer pulled from rough waters was later pronounced dead after Los Angeles County lifeguards attempted to revive him with CPR.

State park officials later closed the pier after a piling was knocked loose amid the big waves.
As the swells peak Wednesday, waves as large as 25 feet could hit spots that typically see large surf, such as the Wedge in Newport Beach, experts said. Beaches that typically see waves in the 8- to 12-foot range could see breaks of about 15 feet.
The huge swells have proved irresistible for surfers, who on Tuesday flocked to famed surfing spots -- some to watch in awe, others to brave the waters in front of gawking onlookers.
About 30 body boarders and surfers braved the growing swell at the Wedge as spectators lined the shoreline to watch.
Located at the end of the Balboa Peninsula, where a jetty extends from the point, the spot is famed for waves that can reach monstrous heights. 
“I think it’s just the thrill to see big waves here, to see people taking death-defying courage to ride the waves," Terry Beard told the Daily Pilot.
A high-surf advisory will be in effect for Southern California until Friday evening, the National Weather Service said.

Emily Foxhall is a staff writer for Times Community News.