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High surf conditions worry OC lifeguards

January 22, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Orange County took a pounding Friday morning from rain, wind and thunderstorms, driving concerns about coastal flooding and dangerous waves.

Throughout Friday, sunshine and even a rainbow peeked through, only to be replaced on and off by more rain.

"It's time for the rain to go away," said Cindy Letender of Buena Park. "I've had more than enough. I hate the rain."

There is immediate concern about surfers and swimmers due to the surf conditions with such big waves, expected to reach anywhere between 8 and 15 feet.

"We have a lot of friends who are body surfers and borders and even they aren't out here," said Elizabeth Young of Long Beach.

Conditions are still very dangerous along the coast, and many were just content to watch the water from the sand, and lifeguards say that is a smart move.

"We have large surf out there right now, and we're looking at anywhere between 8 to 15 foot sets to come through. This was anticipated to pick up and peak midday tomorrow, Saturday, with sets up near 10 feet," said Nick Bolin, a marine safety officer. "We're advising pretty much most people to stay out of the water. It's expert-level surf. People who aren't expert surfers should stay out."

Those who aren't experienced are heeding that warning. People like Danny Ashley said he has surfed a few times, but he has no desire to challenge these large waves.

"I'd get out there a couple of times, but I don't swim, so I don't get out there that far," said Ashley, a Long Beach resident.

For the more experienced crowd, it's not the waves that are scary. It's what might be in the water after four straight days of rain and runoff.

"It's pretty dirty too, all the rain water and everything. Earaches, sore throats and flu and who else knows out there," said Jeff Atyil of Long Beach.

"There is a lot less sand, normally this is just nicely groomed. There's a lot of erosion, a lot of debris on the beach. Looks like something blew up here," said Jason Florio of Huntington Beach.

If you plan on watching these waves from the pier, be advised that it remains closed. It took a beating on Tuesday after some huge waves hit one of the cross beams. It will stay closed until they've reassessed the damage Saturday. The damage is estimated to cost approximately $100,000 to fix.

Thursday's conditions were dicey as well.

A swift water rescue team was able to save a 14-year-old boy in Anaheim right off the Santa Ana River on Thursday. He said his friend had also fallen into the water, but after scouring the 11-mile stretch of the river, the teen was still missing. Fire officials said the report of a second boy could not be substantiated and may have been a hoax.

Officials are reminding people of all ages to stay away from wash areas during the storm.

An official said the Santa Ana River is moving at up to 7 mph and is full of mud and debris from the recent storms. The river currently has 40 times its normal volume of water.

On Wednesday, swift water rescue teams had back-to-back calls for children playing in a flood control channel and a group of 10 to 15 teens who took a raft out on turbulent waters.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.