Another shot of swell expected to bring sizable surf to coast

Another dose of solid surf will be hitting Southern California beaches this week, with 4- to 6-foot waves expected along some stretches of coast.

The latest round of waves come after several larger winter swells already battered local beaches in recent weeks, eroding sand, closing piers and sending seawater into streets and parking lots at low-lying trouble spots.

This latest combination of swells will come from the north and mix with an unseasonable south swell. It is expected to build on Wednesday and peak Thursday into Friday.

“It looks like we’re getting a longer period south swell coming in – those are more common in the summer months,” said Casey Oswant, meteorologist for the National Weather Service. “The highest (waves) will be on the south-facing beaches.”

Waves will be larger in Orange County through Friday, versus an expected 3- to 4-foot range at Los  Angeles area beaches, according to Huntington Beach-based surf forecasting company Surfline.com.

One bit of relief for beaches will be an easing of the tides, which were near 7 feet last weekend during a winter “king tide” event.

When combined with strong swells, an extreme tide can push the water high up beaches and cause flooding and damage along the coast. High tide levels later this week are between 4 feet and 5 feet, dropping even more into the weekend.

Communities have been shoring up their sand berms with heavy machinery to protect infrastructure from the relentless ocean waves. Some areas, such as Sunset Beach and Long Beach have had water pool into the streets with high tides and strong surf.

Spectators line the berm as another round of big surf is hitting Southern California, not expected to cause damage but one surf spot in particular has been making waves in Seal Beach on Friday, January 13, 2023. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

Surveyors were able to assess damage to the Seal Beach Pier done in the last big storm, finding 10 piles missing due to the big waves. Another 23 crossmembers are broken and several pile jackets – the thick black wrap around the wooden piles – were either torn or damaged, said Seal Beach Marine Safety Chief Joe Bailey.

There was also boat ramp and handrail damage.

The pier is structurally sound enough to reopen once the handrails are repaired, but it’s unclear when that will happen, Bailey said.

In Los Angeles County, workers have been watching RAT beach in Torrance near an earlier landslide for additional movement, said Nicole Mooradian, Public Information Specialist for the County of Los Angeles Department of Beaches and Harbors.

Also, boulders are being placed along the Point Dume access road and in front of a restroom, she said, and the county is working with the California Coastal Commission for necessary emergency coastal development permits.

Another area under watch is the Marvin Braude Bike Trail at Torrance Beach, which was undermined during recent storms.

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State Parks Superintendent Kevin Pearsall said the waves reached the bike path at Bolsa Chica State Beach during the weekend’s king tide, with workers having to again clean up the sandy mess left behind. But because the surf was smaller, there wasn’t the same damage as a few weeks ago when entire parking lots flooded and the ocean reached Pacific Coast Highway.

Other eroded areas that State Parks are watching are Crystal Cove State Park’s Abalone Cove and San Onofre State Beach, where the parking lot to the popular surf beach has been closed following the recent rains because of mud and some parking may be impacted by erosion when it reopens.

The incoming swell will coincide with a quick shot of warm weather, with temperatures expected to lift up to 70 at the coast and warmer inland by Thursday, before dipping back down into the weekend.

Some areas of coast have steep dropoffs where sand has been chomped away, so beachgoers should use caution.

If heading to the beach, people should be on the lookout for strong rip currents, Oswant said encourage people to “always swim near a lifeguard if they are going to get in the water, for people to know their limits and make sure you talk to a lifeguard if you want to get in the ocean.”

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