California coast braces for more extreme waves

Beachfront California residents yesterday cleaned up from flood damage unleashed by massive waves that pounded the coastline and braced for another bout of extreme surf and heavy showers forecast into the weekend.

The National Weather Service (NWS) posted high surf and coastal flood warnings for much of the California shoreline from San Diego north to the San Francisco Bay area, with breaking waves expected to reach six, eight and even 12 metres in some areas.

The treacherous surf and coastal flood threat was attributed to a Pacific storm system also bringing heavy downpours to much of the West Coast on Friday night while coinciding with the latest arrival of exceptionally high tides known as king tides.

“Significant flooding … is likely over vulnerable, low-lying coastal areas around the time of high tide,” the NWS warned. “Large breaking waves can cause injury, wash people off beaches and rocks, and capsize small boats near shore.”

The seaside town of Ventura, about 105 kilometres northwest of Los Angeles, got a taste of such hazards on Thursday when heavy surf inundated homes and businesses with seawater, sand and ocean debris.

Video footage broadcast by NBC News showed powerful, rogue waves crashing over a seawall onto a beachfront street, knocking people down as others dashed to safety on Thursday in Ventura, where eight people were reported to have been injured.

The aftermath was visible yesterday at an ocean-side hotel where ground-level porches stood cluttered with debris and shattered first-floor windows were covered over in plywood.

Nearby, workers spent the morning stacking sandbags to protect other low-lying properties from further damage.

“Well, the water came over the wall, and you probably saw from any of the videos that it washed down the street like it was a river,” recalled Dan Roundtree, 63, who said his residential complex was flooded.

“So we’re all trying to recoup from yesterday’s water and prepare ourselves as best as possible for tomorrow.”

Even as residents prepared for the next onslaught, a few avid surfers donned wetsuits to take advantage of the still high but less ferocious waves that prevailed yesterday, in the relative lull before what forecasters were predicting for today.

Kenny Powell, 64, another Ventura resident and surfing enthusiast, said that while many surfers live for the thrill of riding exceptionally big waves, Thursday’s conditions proved too challenging for him to venture into the swells.

“And we actually picked a few people out of the water,” he said.

“Mother Nature had a little more than we had planned for.”

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