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Waves Hit Where Storm Won’t

TIMES STAFF WRITER

She huffed and puffed and glowered at Southern California for days, but in the end, the hurricane that weather experts crowned the largest, most menacing tempest to ever whip through eastern Pacific waters fizzled out and veered casually out to sea Sunday.

“We were spared, for now, but I think Hurricane Linda did us a favor,” said Capt. Scott Brown, a spokesman for the Orange County Fire Authority. “It got people thinking about the rain and getting prepared for the winter storms ahead. It may have been a false start, but it was definitely a valuable wake-up call.”

By late Sunday, meteorologists had downgraded Linda from a Category 4 hurricane to a 2. The 100-mph winds it packed throughout the weekend dropped to 80 mph as the storm moved north from Baja into cooler waters. Hurricanes need water temperatures of about 80 degrees to maintain intensity.

Although the hurricane has apparently veered toward the west, forecasters say Orange County still could receive a bit of rain by tonight, accompanied by waves 15 to 20 feet.

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Linda’s apparent retreat did little to keep Orange County residents away from hardware stores, where they filled sandbags and bought supplies to help storm-proof their homes.

Meanwhile, local fire officials said emergency dispatchers were barraged with 911 calls from residents wanting hurricane updates, and dozens of people phoned police to deliver sandbags or provide a home inspection.

“It’s been a little crazy,” Brown said. “People don’t need to panic like that if they’re ready. They just have to be ready, and that’s what we’ve been stressing.”

According to meteorologists, residents will have more time to do just that.

Linda’s latest course could spare Orange County from the 2 or more inches of rain previously expected. Instead, weather services are predicting only a slight chance of showers tonight.

A few light, scattered showers were reported in South County and portions of Irvine on Sunday, but officials predict the moisture will remain in the mountains and move on to Los Angeles by Tuesday.

“You’ll see a good deal of clouds, mixed with sunshine, and it will feel sort of humid out,” said John Sherwin, a meteorologist with WeatherData Inc., which provides forecasts for The Times. “But winds won’t be a problem, and we don’t expect the rain will bother you too much now either.”

Hurricane Linda, while still 760 miles away, did manage to churn 7-foot waves along Orange County’s beaches on Sunday, and lifeguards reported making about 50 rescues by 6 p.m.

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Strong rip currents caught the swimmers and surfers trying to take advantage of the waves, which swelled to 10 feet and could be bigger today, Huntington Beach Lt. Greg Crow said.

When high tide peaks about 9 p.m., sets of 15- to 20-foot waves could cause flooding in some areas, he said.

“We’re still keeping an eye on that,” Crow said. “But it looks like the initial threat is diminishing.”

Temperatures today are expected to reach the mid-70s near the coast and 85 degrees inland, according to the National Weather Service. This year’s El Nino pattern, said to be the most extreme since the early 1980s, could bring “fall-like weather” to Southern California earlier than usual, meteorologist Ted MacKechnie said.

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“We’re in for a long, hard dose of rain here shortly, that’s for sure,” he said. “Linda may have let us go, but don’t expect El Nino to show such mercy.”


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