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High surf, heavy rain expected in Southland

December 04, 2007|David Reyes | Times Staff Writer

Get ready for a weather roller coaster. The Santa Anas make a return today, large ocean surf with possible 14-foot breakers is expected through Wednesday and heavy rain is forecast to arrive Thursday.

"We're going to have the best of ocean swells for the year coming into Southern California and the biggest rain of the season, plus a fire weather watch because of offshore winds," said Stuart Seto, a weather specialist for the National Weather Service.

Despite last week's rain, fire danger remains a concern, according to the National Weather Service, which issued a fire watch for Los Angeles area mountains and recreation areas.

Balmy weather is expected today, with offshore winds from the north and northeast of 15 mph to 25 mph and gusts to 50 mph through the afternoon, Seto said. The humidity will drop from 15% to 8%, Seto said.

"The fire watch could be extended into Wednesday if the offshore winds continue. But for right now it's only for Tuesday," he said.

Meanwhile, high surf and large swells are expected to barrel into west-facing beaches in Central and Southern California beginning later today and into Wednesday, Seto said. A combination of big waves and high tides in the 5-foot range can cause beach erosion and flooding in low-lying areas, he said.

The surf will build throughout today and tonight, peaking Wednesday. By Thursday, the swell is expected to diminish into the 5- to 7-foot range, Seto said.

A rainstorm from the Northwest is expected Thursday through Saturday, bringing more than an inch of rain, Seto said.

The Coast Guard issued a warning for recreational boaters to stay in port. If they do go out, they need to take special precautions because of the high seas, said Lt. Andrew Munoz, a Coast Guard spokesman. "Recreational boating is not advisable for the next couple of days," he said.

Seas near shore will present a danger to even the largest of ships, Munoz said. The Coast Guard advised having at least a global positioning system device and a marine radio aboard because boaters often rely on cellphones, even though coverage offshore is unreliable.

Los Angeles County beaches that could be affected by the high surf include the western portions of the Palos Verdes Peninsula, Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach and Manhattan Beach.

The large waves could mean an early Christmas for surfers eager to slide into some sizable surf, said Tom Henley, owner of Beach Break Surf Shop in Ventura.

"The buzz in the shop is we can't wait for it to get bigger," said Henley, who expects the surf to be at its highest Wednesday.

Areas prone to flooding -- such as portions of Orange County's Seal Beach -- have already taken steps to protect homes.

"We brought out the tractors and earthmovers last week and pushed our beach sand into a berm to protect oceanfront homes along Seal Way," Lifeguard Lt. Chris Pierce said.

As a precaution, the city doubled the number of lifeguards patrolling the beach. Wednesday's expected high tide of 5 1/2 feet at 6:12 a.m. will be watched carefully by city workers, Pierce said.

With ocean temperatures dipping into the 50s, only the most hardy and experienced surfers are expected to challenge the big surf.

Normally placid Seal Beach can easily turn treacherous. Two years ago, a powerful swell snapped surfboards. Paramedics treated numerous injuries, including two surfers with broken legs.

"We heard we can be expecting from 8- to 14-foot waves and this swell is supposed to be strong enough to break offshore by Ester," Pierce said, referring to an oil platform about 1 1/2 miles offshore where giant waves can break on rare occasions.

Along the coast, lifeguards monitored the beaches, although there were little signs of large surf Monday.

"We did check the buoys off of Oregon, and according to websites, the surf was 38-foot offshore," said Lt. Mike Beuerlein of the Huntington Beach lifeguards. "That's an indication that something's happening and coming our way."

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david.reyes@latimes.com

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