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Heat, high waves headed to Southern California

July 22, 2009 |  1:27 pm


High temperatures and surf are expected to be in full force starting Thursday at Southern California beaches, where people trying to beat the heat might be told to stay out of the water.

As the heat wave continues, south facing beaches in L.A. and Orange counties are bracing for large waves, just in time for the Hurley U.S. Open of Surfing competition, which ends Sunday in Huntington Beach. But regular folks drawn to the cool Pacific Ocean may be in for a rude awakening: Lifeguards may warn them not to go into the water if the surf gets too high and dangerous.

The high surf will be the result of 50-knot winds that developed off Tahiti, producing 45-foot waves there – and that system is traveling north to Southern California.

Me_kn7dj8nc "It's pretty rare in California to see the best surfers in the world on really large waves," said Sean Collins, chief forecaster for surfline.com. "It's a nice present. Every day, we at Surfline are watching storms, so when we saw this one develop, we were very happy. "

But the National Weather Service has issued a warning to boaters in south-facing harbors to anchor down. Beach homeowners are also being told to be wary of increased erosion from large waves and high tides.

"It's going to be very dangerous, there's going to be a lot of rip current," Collins said.

As high pressure continues to heat up the Southland, triggering heat warnings in Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, thousands are expected to flock to area beaches to cool off.

"Typically, it would be a red-flag warning and we would ask swimmers to stay out of the water," said B.J. Fisher, health and safety director for the American Lifeguard Assn. "But right now, it's up to the individual municipals."

Lifeguards in Newport Beach and Huntington Beach are monitoring conditions.

"We'll have a full summertime weekend crowd, but on top of that we got the Hurley U.S. Open of Surfing, and with a south swell, that will keep lifeguards pretty busy," said Huntington Beach lifeguard Michael Beuerlein. "We'll be making warnings to the public and make sure we're adequately staffed."

L.A. County lifeguards also are anticipating large crowds along 72 miles of coastline from Long Beach to the Ventura County border.

"We're watching it and we're prepared … but then again it's a prediction, so things might change," said Chief Mickey Gallagher of L.A. County lifeguards. "Only time will tell."

-- Ruben Vives

Photos: (top) Rhonda Silverman, visiting from New Jersey, soaks up the sun on the Huntington Beach Pier on Wednesday where the U.S. Open of Surfing competition is taking place. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

(bottom) A father pulls his children through the surf next to the Huntington Beach Pier. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times