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Surf, wind and flood advisories issued as rainstorms hit Southern California

January 13, 2010 |  8:40 am

Commutes were marred by slick roads this morning after scattered showers fell overnight, and the rain is expected to continue through this afternoon, along with strong winds and high surf.

Forecasters were warning beachgoers to stay out of the ocean because of dangerous surf. A high-surf advisory is in effect until 9 a.m. Friday as a large west swell combines with high tides over the next few days, according to the National Weather Service.

Waves are expected to reach 8 to 12 feet at Los Angeles and Ventura county beaches and as high as 17 feet on exposed, west-facing beaches. Dangerous rip currents are expected on all beaches through Friday. During the peak of the event, surf is expected to reach an average height of 15 to 20 feet along the central coast.

“It’s definitely surfer’s heaven,” said Bill Patzert, a climatologist for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge. “It’s iconic Southern California surf, but it’s not for amateurs.”

The rain is light compared with what’s on the way, he said. A coming series of storms will dump heavy rain onto the Southland, he said.

“This is all the rain we really need, except for the people in La Cañada,” Patzert said, referring to a fire zone at risk for possible mudslides. “We’ll be measuring in inches next week, instead of tenths of an inch. It looks like winter is here.”

Wind advisories issued by the National Weather Service say winds of 35 mph or greater are expected in the San Gabriel Mountains until 6 tonight and in the Antelope Valley until 6 a.m. Thursday.

A high-wind watch, indicating a forecast of sustained winds of 40 mph and gusts exceeding 60 mph, will be in effect until 6 p.m. today in the San Gabriel Mountains and 6 a.m. Thursday in the Santa Monica Mountains and the Antelope Valley.

Winds could churn up dust and debris, knock down trees and power lines and make traveling for high-profile vehicles especially difficult, said forecasters, who predicted particularly fierce winds in the Santa Monica Mountains and along Interstate 5 near the Grapevine. The high winds will decrease Thursday afternoon but pick up again Thursday night and Friday, they said.

A coastal flood watch is in effect until Friday afternoon.

"Residents in low-lying beach areas susceptible to coastal flooding should act now to protect property," National Weather Service officials said in a statement.

A tenth to a quarter-of-an-inch of rain is forecast for the Los Angeles Basin, but it is not expected to be enough to contribute to any flooding.

-- Gerrick D. Kennedy

Photo: A bodyboarder rides the high surf just south of the Seal Beach Pier early this morning.  Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

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