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California

Ventura Pier takes a beating as high surf continues to pound Southern California

Waves in Ventura County are expected to reach 8 to 12 feet, with sets up to 15 feet.

Powerful waves that slammed California’s coast this week battered the Ventura Pier, snapping at least one piling and forcing the closure of the 146-year-old landmark.

Visitors walking along the pier Monday felt the wooden structure sway under their feet as massive waves slammed into its base, misting people with salty ocean water.

On Tuesday, a heavy metal gate remained closed at the base of the pier, barring tourists and locals from taking a stroll. It is not clear when the pier will reopen.

Ventura city contractors are expected to assess the extent of the pier’s damage and remove the portion of the piling that’s still attached to the structure. Officials said doing so will prevent it from knocking into other pilings as destructive waves stemming from storm-driven winds and a deep low-pressure system centered in the Gulf of Alaska continue to hammer the region through Tuesday night.

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West-facing beaches were hit hardest this week, with waves in Ventura County reaching 8 to 12 feet with sets up to 15 feet near the harbor. Waves in Los Angeles County were slightly smaller, ranging from 6 to 10 feet with sets up to 12 feet.

Orange County beaches saw waves between 5 and 8 feet, with sets up to 11 feet, while San Diego County was predicted to have surf between 7 and 10 feet with sets up to 13 feet south of Del Mar.

The National Weather Service issued a high surf advisory for the coastline until 10 p.m. Tuesday when the surf is expected to gradually subside.

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The Ventura Pier, which is listed on the city’s register of historic sites, has burned or been battered by storms roughly 10 times in its history. The most recent damage occurred during a winter storm in 2015 that snapped roughly a dozen piles and closed the landmark for several months while repairs were completed.

Jenise Wagar-Hernandez, the executive director of Pier Into the Future — a nonprofit that aims to preserve the structure through fundraising for enhancements and repairs — said this week’s storm doesn’t seem to be as volatile as the one three years ago.

“Hopefully there won’t be significant damage this time,” Wagar-Hernandez said.

The pier was an essential component of Ventura’s economic infrastructure when it was built in 1872. Trading ships plying the coast would routinely arrive at the wharf to pick up farm animals, produce and oil that was in demand in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Now, workers and deckhands on the pier have been replaced by families strolling along the boardwalk past fishermen with their lines dangling into the ocean.

The pier’s relationship with locals and tourists has become decidedly more romantic. Its exquisite view of the Pacific Ocean has cinched its status as a prime site for marriage proposals and prom photographs, Wagar-Hernandez said.

“There’s so much amazing history associated with it,” she said. “It’s our icon. Many people from Ventura say that as soon as they see the pier, they feel a sense of connection.”

hannah.fry@latimes.com

Twitter: @Hannahnfry

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