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California and the West

Hurricane Threat Waves Goodbye to Southland

Weather: Downgraded to a tropical storm, Linda leaves little more than heavey surf as it veers out to sea.

September 16, 1997|ERIC MALNIC | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The fading remnants of former Hurricane Linda steered out to sea on Monday, bidding farewell with towering ocean waves that delighted Southern California surfers and scattered showers that dampened the morning commute in the Los Angeles Basin.

Downgraded Monday morning to a tropical storm, Linda--which once had produced gusts as high as 215 m.p.h.--was generating sustained winds of about 55 m.p.h. Monday night as it headed west toward oblivion in the vast stretches of open sea between the mainland and the Hawaiian Islands.

A heavy surf advisory remained in effect at Southland beaches until this morning, with waves as tall as 15 feet reported Monday at some south-facing beaches in Orange County. Lifeguards watched the situation closely, and there were no reports of accidents like the one that left a man hospitalized after he and four companions were swept from a jetty in Newport Beach on Sunday night.

The hit-and-miss rain showers were generally light, with few major traffic problems reported during the morning rush hours.

Measurable rain was reported in places like Montebello, with .33 of an inch of rain.; San Gabriel, with. 05; Long Beach, with .03 and Pasadena, with .01. But downtown Los Angeles continued its record dry spell, which began on Feb. 18. Monday was the 210th day without measurable rain at the Civic Center. The old record--197 days, was set between Apr. 12 and Oct. 27 in 1927.

Monday's rains, which were heavier in the mountains, helped fire fighters snuff out remaining embers from a forest fire that had destroyed 11 homes and two outbuildings in the San Bernardino Forest near Running Springs.

As an added bonus, Linda provided local officials with an emergency preparedness drill, one that served as a good practice session for the heavy weather expected soon as a result of continuing El Nino meteorological conditions.

"It caused us to make sure we have our information straight," said Bob Canfield, chief of the city's emergency services program.

Laura Hernandez, assistant director of Ventura County's Office of Emergency Services, said the drill pointed up the need to update telephone numbers and make sure officials were kept properly informed.

In Ventura County, the waves on Monday topped out at a manageable nine feet or so--what surfer Tom Matov of Santa Barbara described as "just a nice, solid, fun swell."

But in Orange County, where the waves were about six feet taller, it took a bit more daring to venture into the water. Hundreds gathered on the sand in Huntington Beach, Newport Beach and other favored surfing spots on Monday to watch those with enough nerve to challenge the crashing waves.

"It was like a finale show," said Sgt. Mike Hiller with the Orange County Sheriff's Department Harbor Patrol. "She gave us a little taste today, a very small taste, of what she could have been."

Lifeguards made far fewer rescues than the more than 160 on Sunday, when a sudden wave yanked the five people off the jetty in Newport Beach. One 32-year-old victim remained in serious condition late Monday; the rest, including a 12-year-old boy, were released.

"People just did a lot more watching today, probably because the waves just look more intimidating," said Lt. Greg Crow, a Huntington Beach lifeguard supervisor. "Even the strongest, most conditioned swimmers can get into trouble out there."

While the much-studied El Nino condition did not spawn Linda, the meteorological phenomenon, which has warmed water as much as five degrees above normal along the West Coast, did intensify the storm.

Moving northwest along the west side of the Baja California peninsula, the powerful hurricane threatened Southern California until it was turned aside by winds circulating around a building ridge of high pressure that deflected the storm to the west, meteorologists said.

While Southern California escaped Linda, forecasters say that the El Nino conditions could bring unusually heavy rains to the area this fall, winter and spring.

The high temperature at the Los Angeles Civic Center Monday was a muggy 93 degrees, following an unsually warm overnight low of 73. John sherwin, a meteorologist with WeatherData, Inc., which provides forecasts for The Times, said a gradual cooling trend should begin today.

Times Staff Writer Bonnie Hayes in Orange County and Times correspondent Richard Warchol in Ventura County contributed to this story.

AL MARTINEZ: The "storm" of the "century" trickles out to sea. B1.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Linda Continues Westward Track

The remnants of former Hurricane Linda, which was downgraded Monday to a tropical storm, steered farther out to sea. High pressure deflected the storm to the west and away from land over the past few days.

A heavy surf advisory remained in effect until this morning, with some 15-foot waves Monday at south-facing beaches in Orange County.

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