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Torrential Waves and Evacuations Plague California Coast Amidst Atmospheric River Storm

Published December 29, 2023
7 months ago

California has been hit by its first major swells of the winter, causing turmoil along its coastlines as an atmospheric river storm leads to significant flooding, prompting evacuations across various coastal cities. Ventura County experienced particular distress, with waves as high as 12 feet reported, and even more colossal swells shaking the Central Coast.


The National Weather Service's office in Oxnard, with meteorologist Mike Wofford providing updates, issued high surf advisories throughout Ventura County on Thursday. Local authorities, confronting a barrage of injuries and ocean rescues, strongly advised the community to avoid the waters.


The morning's events at Ventura County's South Seaward Avenue laid bare the storm's severity. Here, eight individuals suffered varying degrees of injuries from the swelling waters and needed hospital treatment. One of the affected establishments, the Inn On The Beach hotel, was forced to shut down after flooding.


The Ventura County Fire Department, amidst the chaos, managed to successfully carry out 15 ocean rescues without further injuries, as confirmed by Captain Brian McGrath. The Inn on the Beach, where the wave's impact was notably acute, had to evacuate all of its 45 guests and is now contending with an indefinite hiatus due to the damages and necessary repairs.


The danger extended to the Faria Beach Campground, which saw significant damage from the force of the waves, compelling the closure of all Ventura County beaches until it is deemed safe again. Evacuation schemes were initiated in parts of Marin County, leading residents to seek refuge at Stinson Beach Community Center.


Santa Cruz County issued an evacuation warning for areas around Seacliff State Beach due to flooding, with the warning announcement made via Twitter. Monterey County's Point Lobos State Natural Reserve was closed for public safety, directing tourists to less hazardous areas. Carmel's shoreline drive was partially blocked off due to the threat posed by surging waves.


Notwithstanding the peril, some surfers and sightseers were attracted by the dramatic conditions. North of Half Moon Bay, the famed Mavericks surf break drew both surfers and a throng of onlookers, as described by Tina Lourenco from Old Princeton Landing – a hospitality hotspot in the area. Despite the crowds and exhilaration, authorities, including former surfer and event organizer Brian Overfelt, warned of the extreme risk, emphasizing the necessity for professional-level rescue readiness on the water.


The National Weather Service reiterated the danger these conditions pose, with meteorologist Alexis Clouser advising beachgoers to maintain a safe distance from the water and refrain from individual rescue attempts, stressing the importance of calling professionals.


This weather pattern causing high surf along Northern California's coastlines isn't unusual for the season; previous atmospheric river storms have led to similar conditions. In Southern California, the surf, while not as colossal, remains dangerous with high tides predicted to last through Saturday, according to the advisories.


The cumulative impact of strong winds and other specific conditions contribute to such high walls of water, with a recent study suggesting that climate change is exacerbating this situation by driving up ocean temperatures and causing increased wave activity.


Though no structural or road damages have been anticipated, the risk of drowning and other injuries remains high. The National Weather Service's persistent message across all advisories is clear: "Never turn your back to the ocean."



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