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Dangerously High Surf Keeps Lifeguards Busy

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Orange County lifeguards made scores of rescues in dangerously high surf Sunday as warm water temperatures and six-foot waves drew hundreds of thousands of people to beaches from Seal Beach to San Clemente.

Weather officials reported that storm conditions in the South Pacific generated waves that averaged three to six feet at county beaches and warmed water temperatures to 71 degrees.

The warm weather drew about 120,000 people to the shores of Newport Beach alone, according to lifeguard Mike Malloy.

Malloy said waves at the Wedge, a popular surf spot, peaked at 10 feet during some periods, causing some injuries to surfers. One surfer suffered a serious neck injury and several others suffered dislocated shoulders.

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But lifeguards along the county’s coast reported that most of the rescues were routine, involving swimmers who were swept to deeper waters by riptides.

Michael Gillespie, a lifeguard at the state beach’s Dana Point office, said that lifeguards in South County have rescued about 100 people each day for the past four days.

“The more people we have in the water, the higher probability that we’re going to rescue some of them,” said Gillespie, whose office patrols beaches from Dana Point to San Onofre State Beach.

At Huntington City Beach, lifeguards reminded surfers and swimmers throughout the day to stay in shallow areas, said lifeguard Mike Bartlett. Lifeguards there made 30 rescues by about 6 p.m. and treated some injured surfers, he said.

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“Some surfers are wiping out and cutting themselves with their surfboards,” Bartlett said. “This makes our job pretty difficult.”

Weather officials said the six- foot-high swells should drop to about two feet later today.

A spokesman for WeatherData, which provides forecasts for The Times, said coastal areas of the county will experience low clouds and fog during morning hours, then sunshine and temperatures in the low 70s today.


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