On December 30th, 2023, California’s coastal communities faced another day of turmoil as massive waves and coastal flooding continued to wreak havoc. For the third consecutive day, these extreme conditions have necessitated water rescues, caused property damage, and resulted in injuries.
The surf, often towering over 20 feet, led to beach closures along the California coast. In Ventura County, the impact was particularly severe, with waves surging over seawalls, sweeping cars into intersections, and causing extensive damage to a local hotel’s ground-floor rooms, as reported by fire captain Brian McGrath.
The high water and dangerous rip currents, stretching from southern California to Oregon, are the result of powerful storms making their way ashore from the Pacific Ocean. While Northern Californians may see some respite, Central and Southern California continue to battle extreme surf, with waves potentially reaching 25 feet in some areas.
In the Bay Area, some waves are expected to peak at an astonishing 40 feet, comparable to the height of a telephone pole. Southern Oregon’s coast also braced for strong surf and high winds, with high surf warnings in effect through Saturday morning.
Local officials are urging people to stay out of the water and away from the beaches due to potentially life-threatening conditions. Despite the spectacular surf attracting curious onlookers and surfers, the risks are significant. Ventura County closed all beaches through New Year’s Eve, with areas like Hermosa, Manhattan, and Palos Verdes beaches facing the most extreme conditions and significant risk of coastal flooding.
The situation has been challenging for first responders. In Ventura, about 10 people were rescued on Friday, December 29th, and two beachgoers assisted a lifeguard struggling in the high surf. The severity of the situation was highlighted on Thursday, December 28th, when nearly 20 people were swept away by a wave in Ventura Beach’s Pierpont area, resulting in eight hospitalizations.
Colin Hoag, a witness to the event, described it as “terrifying and apocalyptic,” capturing the chaos as people scrambled to escape the towering wave.
As the storms continue, they bring not only massive waves but also rain and wind to California. The rain shifted inland across Southern California, weakening over the Rocky Mountains by Sunday.