With heavy winter storms barreling toward Southern California in the coming days, coastal communities throughout Los Angeles and Orange counties have begun to brace for potentially messy and hazardous conditions.
In L.A. County, some beach communities closed their piers and had started taking other safety measures by Wednesday, Feb. 22, while in Orange County, some lifeguard stations or businesses were on higher-than-usual alert.
In the South Bay, for example, 12 lifeguard towers in Manhattan Beach and seven in Hermosa Beach were moved back due to high surf conditions, said Nicole Mooradian, a spokesperson for the L.A. County Department of Beaches and Harbors.
The department had also used large bulldozers at Zuma Beach in Malibu and at Venice Beach to clear storm drains, and workers shored up sand berms at Zuma Beach to alleviate erosions and flooding, she said.
By Wednesday afternoon, there were “tons of debris” washing up that had to be cleared at the beaches, said Mooradian, who also reported that a building at Royal Palms Beach in San Pedro had lost a few shingles due to high winds.
She stressed that county workers will continue to monitor the situation and may have to return over the next few days to again remove debris or clear sand off bike paths and other walkways.
“Mother Nature keeps undoing what we’re doing,” Mooradian said.
Laura Mecoy, a spokesperson for the city of Hermosa Beach, said the city closed its pier overnight and that it likely will remain closed until the storm passes. City crews were out Wednesday, clearing sand from The Strand pathway, Pier Plaza and Hermosa and Pier avenues due to strong winds blowing sand in from the beach.
Redondo Beach, likewise, had closed its pier and was not expected to reopen it until at least Thursday morning.
And in Long Beach, the city was encouraging residents to report downed trees to its public works department.
— City of Long Beach (@LongBeachCity) February 22, 2023
Communities in Orange County also were on guard.
In Newport Beach, the Balboa Island Ferry issued an “orange alert” Wednesday morning to warn that service could be temporarily suspended.
Meanwhile, though emergency responders were keeping a close eye on the situation, things did appear slightly calmer in San Clemente
“We don’t get as big a surf because we have a little bit of blockage from Catalina and the Channel Islands,” said Marine Safety Lt. Sean Staudenbaur.
The area saw waves measuring 5 to 6 feet, on average, on Wednesday due to high winds, but those were expected to drop to 3 to 4 feet by Thursday and Friday, he said.
Staudenbaur said lifeguards would continue to monitor conditions, but it did not appear as of late Wednesday afternoon that San Clemente would have to shut down any piers. That could change depending on wind conditions, however.
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“Even from this morning until now, the surf has dropped,” Staudenbaur said. “But you never know with the wind.”
To be sure, predicting weather conditions can be a bit of a guessing game. And when it comes to storm preparedness, the work, Mooradian of the L.A. County Department of Beaches and Harbors said, is never done.
“We’re always preparing,” she said, “because the beach is such a dynamic environment. What it looks like right now? Come high tide, it might look a lot different.”