High surf conditions prompt evacuation warning for beach residents in Ventura County

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Sunday, December 31, 2023
High surf, dangerous rip currents raise hazards at SoCal beaches
A high surf warning and a coastal flood warning issued by the National Weather Service will be in effect until 10 p.m. Saturday for all Los Angeles County beaches, including the Malibu Coast and Catalina Island.

VENTURA, Calif. (KABC) -- Some residents who live near the beach received an evacuation warning Saturday as a high surf warning and coastal flood warning was in effect for a stretch of the Southern California coast.

The Ventura County Fire Department announced the temporary warning, which impacted homes bordering the Pacific Coast Highway, from Seacliff Avenue South to Emma Wood Group Camp, due to high surf impacting structures in the area. It was lifted just before 3 p.m.

The announcement came as authorities urged people to avoid coastal areas during the high surf warning and a storm that was passing through the region.

"Significant flooding of sea water is likely over vulnerable low-lying coastal areas around the time of high tide," according to the National Weather Service. "Damage to coastal roadways and structures is possible. Powerful waves and strong rip currents will pose an exceptional risk of ocean drowning and damage to coastal structures like piers and jetties. Large breaking waves can cause injury, wash people off beaches and rocks, and capsize small boats near shore."

The large waves are expected to create dangerous conditions for anyone entering the water with the possibility of flooding in areas close to the beach.

Forecasters warned that the county will continue to see waves of 10 to 15 feet, with some reaching as high as 20 feet, accompanied by dangerous rip currents.

The highest surf is anticipated at west-facing beaches such as Hermosa, Manhattan and Palos Verdes, forecasters said.

A rogue wave hit the beach near Seward Avenue in Ventura, catching onlookers in rushing water.

People who live in affected communities can't recall seeing waves this size at least in the recent past.

"The waves were big," said Ventura resident Brian Scott. "I mean, I'm a water guy. I sail, scuba dive. These were 15+ foot waves this morning at high tide. Never seen that. We've been here for 10 years."

Javier Cedillo captured a different angle of the giant waves coming in near his home.

"It was like the Japanese tsunami that happened a couple of years ago," he said. "Normally, you would see the tide come in and the tide goes out nice and smoothly, and this one it came in smoothly but it just kept coming."

Ventura County fire officials said the first floor of a hotel was damaged and said it currently has no utilities. There are no guests currently staying there.

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Due to safety concerns relating to the high surf and ocean swell, the Manhattan Beach Pier will be closed through Sunday, city officials said. The city of Long Beach urged residents and visitors to drive carefully through the area. Residents in low-lying areas such as Alamitos Bay were urged to "be vigilant and prepare for potential localized flooding due to the large swells." Sand and sandbags were being made available to residents at city fire stations.

NWS forecasters added: "Stay off of beaches and coastal walkways, roads, and structures. Do NOT drive around barricades or through water of unknown depth. Everyone should remain out of the water due to life-threatening surf conditions. Stay off of jetties, piers, and other water side infrastructure."

In Orange County, a high surf warning and coastal flood advisory will be in effect until 2 a.m. Monday. Forecasters said Orange County beaches will see waves of 6 to 15 feet.

According to the NWS, the Orange County locations most susceptible to flooding include Seal Beach, Sunset Beach and Newport Beach.

In Orange County, a high surf warning and coastal flood advisory will be in effect until 2 a.m. Monday. Forecasters said Orange County beaches will see waves of 6 to 12 feet, with sets of up to 15 feet in northern OC.

Meanwhile, a storm system moving over the region dumped light to moderate rain.

The moisture moved into Los Angeles County early Saturday morning, with the possibility of six hours of light to moderate rain, followed by occasional showers.

Conditions are expected to dry out Saturday night and Sunday morning. But another storm system was brewing that could bring a slight bit of rain into the area on New Year's Day. Forecasters said the system will likely only produce less than a tenth of an inch of rain, meaning the Rose Parade should escape any major downfalls, although the NWS conceded the day's forecast "is still pretty iffy."

The area will dry out again Tuesday, with another storm system possible by Wednesday and Thursday.

City News Service contributed to this report.