High surf: Seal Beach floods, Malibu Pier closed, 100+ rescued (updated)

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Southern California's shores were slammed by high surf again Wednesday, the result of a storm system churning off Mexico's Pacific coast. Several beaches were closed off to the public in Malibu and Rancho Palos Verdes after waves dislodged portions of a pier in Malibu and riptides snarled swimmers along the coast. Seal Beach, which sustained most of the damage Tuesday after several homes were flooded, avoided more water during Wednesday's high tide, but officials say they expect the high surf to continue.

We'll update this story throughout the day. Refresh this page for the latest information.   

High surf safety tips | Photos and commentary on social media


Update 3:32 p.m. More than 100 rescues in the past 24 hours at LA beaches

The waves at some Los Angeles-area beaches are reaching heights of 10 to 15 feet Wednesday. Lifeguards are warning the public to take "extreme" caution and say to know your limits if you plan to be out in the water.

It has been a very busy day for lifeguards across L.A., says L.A. County Fire Department Inspector Scott Miller.
"In the last 24 hours we've had over 115 ocean rescues," Miller said. "That doesn't take into account the amount of contact and advisal lifeguards have made before people have entered the water."
Miller says lifeguards are on high alert Wednesday and advise inexperienced swimmers to stay on shore.

Orange County Lifeguards Chief Jason Young tells KPCC that the O.C. Lifeguards had 15 rescues Tuesday, but noted that Wednesday's numbers weren't available yet and that this total doesn't include rescues made by other organizations involved in water safety in the County. Their coverage area includes Dana Point and South Laguna beaches.

KPCC staff

Update 1:40 p.m. Lifeguard rescues swimmer in Orange County high surf

Amid pounding surf and ocean safety advisories, a lifeguard jumped from a pier Wednesday to rescue a swimmer in his 60s who was caught in the waves at Seal Beach in Orange County, NBC-LA reported.

Water conditions were too rough for Seal Beach Police Department personnel to reach the swimmer with a boat or personal watercraft, Seal Beach Police Chief Joseph Stilinovich said, according to NBC-LA. 

Update 1:15 p.m. Seal Beach homes avoid more flooding 

Oceanfront homes in Seal Beach, California, have avoided another drenching from huge surf spawned by Hurricane Marie in the Pacific Ocean off Mexico, Gillian Flaccus of the Associated Press reported. 

High tide came and went late Wednesday morning but a hastily-built 6-foot-tall sand berm and pumps kept seawater from returning to the low-lying community south of Los Angeles, according to AP.

High surf safety tips

Heal the Bay gave the following tips on how to stay safe during a raging surf:

How to stay safe in the ocean

  • Know your limits. It is totally okay to stay on shore and enjoy the beauty of the waves from the beach.
  • Talk to a lifeguard about current conditions. They're aware of hazards and site-specific conditions.
  • Don’t just jump into the water. Always take 15 minutes on shore, watching the pattern and intensity of the breaking waves. How many waves are in a set and at what frequency are they rolling in? The idea is to time your entry into the surf as best as possible to avoid being hammered by an incoming set.
  • Never swim alone. Always swim with at least one buddy and at a beach with a lifeguard.
  • Look for the best place to enter and leave the water. Plan your exit route in advance. If things get hairy, you don’t want to find yourself trapped in the impact zone or washed against dangerous rocks without a plan. It’s always easier getting in than getting out.
  • Mind your surf etiquette. Bigger waves mean bigger forces. A surfboard can become a lethal weapon if surfers cross paths in the water.
  • Look out for others in the water. Ask if you can help if someone seems to be in distress.

If you're in the water and in trouble

  • If you're caught in a rip current, don't fight it and swim parallel to shore until you are free from the rip. Then you can swim into shore (rip currents are in isolated locations between sand bars). 
  • If you are caught in the waves, it's easiest to dive under them than try to swim through them or jump over them. By diving under, you actually use the natural power and rolling pattern of the wave to help you get past the white water.

8:23 a.m.: Seal Beach flooded, high surf advisories

A low-lying street in the Southern California shore community of Seal Beach was inundated by rising seawater early Wednesday while authorities along the coast braced for an even bigger storm surge brought on by Hurricane Marie spinning off Mexico's Pacific coast, the Associated Press reported.

The National Weather Service issued a coastal hazard message Wednesday morning warning of the potential for damaging and life-threatening surf across south and southeast facing beaches in Los Angeles and Ventura counties. The surf was expected to peak midmorning. The Weather Service urged swimmers and surfers to be aware of the dangerous conditions.

NWS said the highest surf will occur along the beaches of Orange County, where local sets may reach 12 to 15 feet at favored south facing beaches. Surf of 4 to 6 feet is expected in San Diego County with highest surf north of Oceanside. 

In other news related to the surge: 

  • Officials shut down the Malibu Pier Tuesday after a piling was knocked loose by the big waves, the Los Angeles Times reported.
  • Portuguese Point, Sacred Cove and Inspiration Point are closed due to high surf through Friday, according to the L.A. County Fire Department 
  • Also on Tuesday, an unconscious surfer pulled from rough water was later pronounced dead after Los Angeles County lifeguards attempted to revive him with CPR, the Times reported.
  • In Seal Beach, several homes and garages were flooded after water cleared a 2 1/2 foot wall along several blocks of an ocean-front street, police Sgt. John Scott told the AP.
  • Another breach was reported less than a mile to the north, in the Peninsula neighborhood of Long Beach, where a sand berm was overtopped by the storm surge, causing minor street flooding, fire department spokesman Jake Heflin told the AP. No injuries were reported.


Seal Beach resident Blanca Dubonbrown told City News Service she woke up late Tuesday to find her first-floor apartment bedroom under 3 inches of water. Several of her neighbors in ground-floor apartments also experienced flooding.

"I was getting ready with the sandbags, but it was too late when I tried to put them up," she said.

Seal Beach Marine Safety Chief Joe Bailey told CNS that crews were trying to dig a channel to allow water that had breached a beach wall to drain back into the ocean.

Workers were also piling sandbags along the streets and erecting a sand berm to hold back the storm surge before the next high tide, expected shortly before 11 a.m.

"I've been doing this for 25 years, and this is the biggest southern swell I've seen," Bailey told City News Service.

At The Wedge in Newport Beach, a famous surfing spot, dozens lined the beach on Tuesday to watch bodysurfers get pounded by storm-driven waves up to 10 feet high. People took photos and video and clapped, whistled, and cheered when a bodysurfer caught one of the swells.

Lifeguards with flippers and rescue batons at the ready patrolled the edge of the water and two rescue boats kept an eye on the dozen or so brave souls in the water. An ambulance was on stand-by.

Would-be big-wave surfers who came out said they were hoping for swells up to 30 feet Wednesday. If they materialize, it will be the biggest wave event at The Wedge since 1997, when Hurricane Linda produced monster swells, said Tim Burnham, who's making a documentary about the famed surfing locale.

"This is the stuff that you dream of: rainbows, unicorns, Southern Hemi swells, hurricane swells," he said as he dried off from a session in the waves.

"You definitely have a healthy amount of fear," Burnham said. "You know, you don't want to be stupid. You're here to push yourself, but at the end of the day you want to go home to your family."

Photos from witnesses and emergency personnel have been pouring in on Twitter. We've compiled a few: 


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