Hurricane Marie-Whipped High Surf Pounds Balboa Pier But Occupants Don't Seem to Mind

Heavy surf pounds Balboa Pier Wednesday evening.
Heavy surf pounds Balboa Pier Wednesday evening.
Photo by Matt Coker/OC Weekly

It's a mystery why anyone would want to line a pier or dine at the Ruby's at the end of it as hurricane-whipped surf pounds the wooden structure, but that's exactly what happened Wednesday at Balboa Pier in Newport Beach.

Hurricane Marie is Bringing High Surf, Mucho Traffic and Scant Parking

Most of the news van and lookiloo attention was focused on The Wedge down the peninsula a bit, but those who lined the sand or manned the pier were also treated to a show courtesy of Ma Nature and her niece Hurricane Marie (whose name has since been changed to Tropical Storm Marie).

Oohs, ahs and screams could be heard at the pier even after darkness fell, when some sets with waves as tall as the pier rolled in and shot water over the sides to soak those pier occupants. At one point, as the loud crash of a heavy wave slamming the pier rang out, dozens and dozens of folks about three-quarters of the way down made mad dashes to get the hell off the thing. But then they all stopped, totally drenched, and had a laugh.

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The whole time at the end of the pier, fishermen fished, Ruby's diners dined and the wait staff waited.

After they came out of the strong shore crashers near the pier, a young guy with a surf board and another with a body board were advised by a bleach-blond lifeguard that they ought to knock it off for the day.

Continuing on down to The Wedge around 8:30 p.m.--did you know you can actually see stars and constellations in the darkness there? Who knew?--the action was not quite as frenzied as it had been during the day (more on that later) as the waves were not quite as tall (or visible). But I'd wager there were still just shy of 1,000 people still facing the waves as reporters and producers in their news vans waited to do their late-night live remotes.

The Wedge Like You've Never Seen It Before

A guy who was walking up to the shore carrying a body board spurred shocked looks and whispers of things like, "He's actually going out there at night?" It's impossible to report whether he did because it was just so damn dark out.

And that produced comedic moments whenever massive sets rolled in, crashed against the sand cliff facing the water and soaked certain points of the phalanx. (Your trusty reporter even got a sand-filled shower.)

The National Weather Service says the strength of the swells will steadily dwindle through Friday, although damaging surf, strong rip currents and minor coastal flooding are still expected. But the peak is over, forecasters say.

Slideshow: Huge Swell @ The Wedge

Speaking of damaging surf, check out the roundup that starts on the next page ...

THE WEDGE: Lifeguards made about 10 rescues by mid-afternoon Wednesday. Some minor injuries were reported. City officials said waves were ranging from 10 to 20 feet, but witnesses on the beach claimed some reached up to 25 feet. Traffic in and out of the area was jammed all day (and after dark). Signs of beach erosion abound.

ALL OF NEWPORT BEACH: Lifeguards made 73 rescues and 8,000 preventative actions. Wednesday's large swells attracted more than 50,000 visitors. Large crowds are expected again today (Thursday) to the Balboa Peninsula which will create heavy traffic and severely limited parking, according to the city. Why? Because the high surf and strong rip currents will continue. (See the city advisory at the bottom of this page.)

SEAL BEACH: Two rescues were made Wednesday. Some flooding occurred the overnight before. Crews on bulldozers hastily built berms and channels to minimize damage, and thousands of sandbags were distributed. "It's been terrible," Bianca Dubonbrown, whose ground-floor apartment was flooded, told City News Service. "I was getting ready with the sandbags, but it was too late when I tried to put them up." Agreed Orange County Fire Authority's Steve Concialdi, "It's hit Seal Beach extremely hard."

LONG BEACH: As a precaution, Ocean Boulevard was closed to everyone but residents between 55th Place and 72nd Place due to minor flooding. Crews built sand berms to protect property. Two cargo-handling companies at the Port of Long Beach suspended operations temporarily due to minor flooding. Two barges had broken free of their moorings overnight and had to be towed to other docks.

SANTA CATALINA ISLAND: The Catalina Express boat yard sustained "substantial" damage and service between the island and the mainland was suspended for the first half day of Wednesday. Smaller boats and different docks were used when service resumed later in the afternoon between the island and Dana Point, Long Beach and San Pedro. A number of mooring lines snapped on boats but none of them crashed on the island's beach.

ELSEWHERE IN LA COUNTY: Lifeguards reported making 118 ocean rescues through Wednesday afternoon. As many as 65 of those were made Wednesday at Malibu alone. Among those who helped with a rescue was big-wave surfing legend Laird Hamilton. As we previously reported, a surfer died at Malibu Tuesday.

City of Newport Beach advisory issued this morning (Thursday):

Beach Onlookers to the Balboa Peninsula should anticipate serious traffic delays

According to the National Weather Service, high surf and strong rip currents will continue through today, due to Tropical Storm Marie.

Yesterday's large swells attracted over 50,000 visitors to Newport Beach's coastline. Newport Beach Lifeguards were kept busy throughout the day making 73 rescues and taking over 8,000 preventative actions to educate beach visitors on the hazards of the surf and ocean. In addition, the Newport Beach Police Department implemented extensive traffic control measures in an attempt to keep traffic moving and by noon had issued a sig alert for the Balboa Peninsula.

Parking was extremely limited along the Peninsula and no parking was available near the Wedge throughout the day.

With the strong waves estimated to be a consistent 6' to 8' with sets peaking at 12' to 15', Newport Beach is expecting more onlookers today. Motorists could potentially experience traffic delays of two hours or more, depending on the number of visitors to the area. Officers will have a heavy presence in the area to ensure vehicles keep moving and do not block roads. Visitors are encouraged not to drive to the peninsula, but to use public transportation, bicycle, or walk to the area.

Motorists cannot park along an area of red curb, blocking any driveway, or in any private driveway or parking lot without the owner's permission. There will be little or no parking available from A Street (near the Balboa Pier) east to Channel Road (the end of the peninsula), and there is no "drop off" point to allow passengers to get out.

Today's high tide for the Newport Beach area is estimated at 11:28 a.m. which may produce some coastal flooding. The high surf conditions are predicted to subside gradually Friday and Saturday of this week.

Chief Lifeguard Rob Williams said, "Beach visitors should be aware of the strong ocean conditions and only highly experienced swimmers should enter the water during this type of surf. The surf is powerful and causes strong rip currents that can easily pull a swimmer along the shoreline and out to sea. To avoid serious injuries, swimmers should avoid areas with piers, rocks and jetties."

Any swimmer caught in a rip current should stay calm and swim parallel to the shore until they are out of the rip current, Williams said.

Newport Beach Lifeguards offer the following safety tips to always remember:

Check with a lifeguard before entering the water. Swim near a lifeguard. Never swim alone. Use a floatation device. Surfers and body boarders should have a leash on their boards. Body boarders and bodysurfers should wear swim fins. Parents should never leave children unattended while at the beach. Don't dive headfirst into any unknown water. Don't dive toward the bottom into oncoming waves.

Email: Twitter: @MatthewTCoker. Follow OC Weekly on Twitter @ocweekly or on Facebook!

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