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Southern California piers closed as high surf hits beaches

January 19, 2010 | 11:40 am

Waves
Piers along the Southern California coast were being closed today as huge waves surged onto beaches and harbors with a rainstorm that is expected to bring wind, thunder and lightning.

Ventura police closed the city's nearly 2,000-foot wooden pier this morning as a precaution; no damage was reported. But huge waves crashed near beachfront homes. "We're expecting some pretty big surf," said Sgt. Jack Richards.

Lifeguards also closed the Hermosa Beach Pier and were in the process of closing the Manhattan Beach pier, according to Los Angeles County lifeguards.

The National Weather Service issued an urban and small stream flood advisory for Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

A high surf advisory is in effect through Friday and the National Weather Service has issued a coastal flood watch starting tonight through late Wednesday, saying very large surf combined with strong wind is expected to push water into low-lying areas during high tide.

The largest waves will appear Wednesday and Thursday, when breakers could reach as high as 25 feet.

"The surf is very large," Capt. Mike Patterson of the Los Angeles County Fire Department's Lifeguard Division said while watching 15-foot waves at the Hermosa Beach pier, where gates were locked this morning. "It's another facet of the weather."

A second in a series of four storms is sweeping across Southern California today, prompting power outages and fears of mud flows in hillsides stripped of vegetation because of recent wildfires.

Rain should turn into heavy showers with thunder, lightning and gusty winds by this afternoon and evening, dumping between ¾ and 1 ½ inches, according to forecasters. The storm could bring hail and weak, isolated tornadoes inland and off the coast.

"It's a fast mover with gusty winds behind it, so it should be out of the area before midnight," said Stuart Seto, a weather specialist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard. Authorities are urging caution during the afternoon commute, when the brunt of today's storm is expected to hit. They are also warning people to stay inside during the lightning and thunder.

"If you hear it roar, go indoors," Seto said.

The National Weather Service issued a flash flood watch early this morning through tonight for the Station and Sayre fire burn areas, noting that rainfall rates could reach ½ to ¾ of an inch per hour and trigger mud flows. Monday's rain has left the ground nearly saturated.

A high surf advisory is in effect through Friday and weather forecasters have issued a coastal flood watch starting tonight through late Wednesday, saying very large surf combined with strong gusts of wind are expected to push water into low-lying areas during high tide.

The strongest of the consecutive storms is expected to hit Wednesday or Thursday, soaking the Los Angeles area with 2 to 8 inches of rain.

Because of the prolonged showers, authorities are warning that flooding could also occur in small, urban streams and drainages along with debris flows and rockslides, especially as the rain increases in intensity Wednesday. The fourth rainstorm is expected to come Friday.

-- Tony Barboza

Photo: Waves crash into the break wall behind homes on Pacific Coast Highway between Faria Road and Solimar Beach Road as high tide and large swells create heavy surf conditions. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

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