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'Mother Nature rules' battered Southern California coastline [Update]

January 20, 2010 |  8:48 am


Southern California coastal communities, already experiencing battered piers, debris-filled beaches and dangerous waves, are bracing for higher surf and stronger winds today as the third of four rainstorms hits the region.

The National Weather Service has issued a high surf advisory and a coastal flood warning for Los Angeles County beaches. Meteorologist Jamie Meier predicted waves as high as 20 feet and winds as strong as 60 mph, compared with 6- to 10-foot surf and peak gusts of 30 mph Tuesday.

[Updated 11:58 a.m.: Warning that lives could be at risk, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa pleaded today with residents in mudslide-prone foothill areas to evacuate and said the city could be looking at a “La Conchita situation” if the intense rains move in as forecast. Ten people were killed in La Conchita in 2005 when the hillsides above the small Ventura County community came down.

Joined at a late morning press conference by Police Chief Charlie Beck and Fire Chief Millage Peaks, the mayor said that hillside communities from Glendale to Sunland were at the greatest risk. “We’re asking you to work with us on this,” the mayor said.

Chief Beck echoed the warning. “We’re doing this because your life is at risk … please heed the direction.”]

In Ventura, technicians are working to keep the pier’s supports from floating away, said Sgt. Jack Richards with the Ventura Police Department. After the city police closed the pier Tuesday, officials found that one of the pilings had been ripped from the nearly 2,000-foot wood structure and some of the others were coming loose.

The water was doing more damage further inland as well, Richards said.

“One dock ripped from the house. We had to bring the dock back to the harbor,” Richards said. “We’re getting some incredible swells.”

The pier will probably remain closed until engineers can assess and repair the damage on Sunday or Monday, Richards said.

Piers at Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach remained closed, though no damage had been reported, said Captain Terry Harvey of the Los Angeles County Lifeguard Service. Harvey advised the public to stay off jetties during the high surf advisory. The piers will be closed until further notice, Harvey said.

“Mother Nature rules at this point,” Harvey said. “When she lets up we will let that activity decide for itself.”

-- Amina Khan

Photo: Waves crash into the Ventura Pier, which was closed by city police on Tuesday. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

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