Environment & Science

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

A body surfer catches a wave at the Wedge in Newport Beach as Hurricane Marie brings a big swell to the coast.
A body surfer catches a wave at the Wedge in Newport Beach as Hurricane Marie brings a big swell to the coast.
Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC
A body surfer catches a wave at the Wedge in Newport Beach as Hurricane Marie brings a big swell to the coast.
A surfer gets out of the water in Malibu during the big swell from Hurricane Marie.
Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC
A body surfer catches a wave at the Wedge in Newport Beach as Hurricane Marie brings a big swell to the coast.
Big waves crash under the Huntington Beach Pier as Hurricane Marie brings a swell toward the Southern California coast.
Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC
A body surfer catches a wave at the Wedge in Newport Beach as Hurricane Marie brings a big swell to the coast.
A lifeguard signals to a surfer near the Malibu Pier during the big swell from Hurricane Marie.
Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC
A body surfer catches a wave at the Wedge in Newport Beach as Hurricane Marie brings a big swell to the coast.
A body surfer gets ready to swim out to the waves breaking at the Wedge surf spot in Newport Beach.
Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC
A body surfer catches a wave at the Wedge in Newport Beach as Hurricane Marie brings a big swell to the coast.
The beach is packed with surfers and spectators in Malibu during as Hurricane Marie brings a big swell to the region.
Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC
A body surfer catches a wave at the Wedge in Newport Beach as Hurricane Marie brings a big swell to the coast.
People watch surfers catch waves north of the Malibu Pier as the swell from Hurricane Marie creates big waves along south-facing shores.
Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC
A body surfer catches a wave at the Wedge in Newport Beach as Hurricane Marie brings a big swell to the coast.
Spectators watch body surfers catch waves at the Wedge in Newport Beach.
Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC
A body surfer catches a wave at the Wedge in Newport Beach as Hurricane Marie brings a big swell to the coast.
Big waves crash under the Huntington Beach Pier as Hurricane Marie brings a swell toward the Southern California coast.
Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC
A body surfer catches a wave at the Wedge in Newport Beach as Hurricane Marie brings a big swell to the coast.
Spectators line the beach to watch surfers catch waves at the Wedge in Newport Beach as Hurricane Marie brings a big swell to California.
Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC
A body surfer catches a wave at the Wedge in Newport Beach as Hurricane Marie brings a big swell to the coast.
Steve West, 42, wades into the ocean to body surf in Huntington Beach as Hurricane Marie brings a big swell to the California coast.
Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC
A body surfer catches a wave at the Wedge in Newport Beach as Hurricane Marie brings a big swell to the coast.
A lifeguard patrols Newport Beach as spectators watch surfers catch big waves at the Wedge as Hurricane Marie brings a big swell to the California coast.
Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC


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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

Updates

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

If you're in the water and in trouble

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: 

https://twitter.com/LACo_FD/status/504381595151646720

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: