See the update at the end of this post on Newport Beach officials warning of high traffic and scant parking because of people flocking to the coast to see high waves, particularly at The Wedge.
ORIGINAL POST, AUG. 25, 11:06 A.M.: If you thought the surf that pounded Orange County beaches was treacherous this past weekend, you apparently ain't seen nothing yet.
But you will very soon, according to forecasters.
If you read to the end of the story linked above, you know that a 60-year-old man from out of town is presumed to have drowned while body surfing in big waves off Salt Creek Beach in Dana Point Saturday. A body has not yet been recovered.
Hurricane Lowell, about 1,000 miles away, produced 5- to 7-foot waves with powerful shore breaks and strong currents off the Orange County coast over the weekend, reports OC Lifeguards Chief Jason Young.
But there has been no time to breathe a sigh of relief as, off Mexico, Hurricane Marie intensified into a Category 5 hurricane on Sunday to become the strongest tropical system in years in the eastern Pacific Ocean, with maximum sustained winds of 160 mph.
The intensity slipped slightly to a powerful Category 4 hurricane since then (sustained winds: 150 mph), but while the system is not expected to have direct impacts on Mexico or Southern California as it weakens the rest of this week, "indirect impacts will be significant," according to AccuWeather.com meteorologist Brian Lada.
"Hurricane Marie will cause very rough and dangerous surf to spread northward along the beaches of Mexico and Southern California this week," writes Lada in an email. "While the impact on the surf from Lowell and Karina were diminishing over Southern California to start the week, a new series of swells will build Tuesday into Thursday over the region."
See Also: Huge Swell Hits the Wedge [SLIDESHOW]
Heavy rainfall and localized flooding is possible in La Paz, Cabo San Lucas and Hermosillo in Mexico, and Phoenix, Tucson and Albuquerque in the southwestern U.S., adds AccuWeather.com meteorologist Anthony Sagliani.
Meanwhile, the National Weather Service (NWS) is predicting mid-week temperatures in the 100s in inland Southern California, where there will naturally be an increased desire to escape the heat by flocking to the coast. The highs on the coast are expected to reach the upper 70s, water temperatures may be as high as 73 degrees and winds should peak around 15 mph in late afternoons, the NWS predicts.
But anyone hitting the beach will also be met by a high surf advisory, which will be in effect from noon Tuesday through Friday evening due to Marie. Today's waves were forecast to be 1-3 feet with some sets up to 4 feet. Those are expected to be pushed up to about 10 feet by Wednesday, according to the NWS. AccuWeather has 10-15 footers.
Only strong swimmers should venture into the surf as stronger rip currents are likely. Young of OC Lifeguards recommends that you check with lifeguards before entering the water and stay near a staffed lifeguard tower if possible.
UPDATE, AUG. 26, 6:52 P.M.: We're used to wave riders fighting with one another for the same wave at The Wedge, but the fisticuffs could extend to the sand and parking areas facing the beach, as thousands coming out to witness the surf spectacle vie for the same spaces.
"The Newport Beach Police and Fire departments are advising residents and visitors to the Balboa Peninsula to anticipate heavy traffic and severely limited parking due to the high surf conditions caused by Hurricane Marie. Large swells typically attract onlooker's to the city's coastline," reads a city advisory that just went out.
"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 not block roads. Visitors are encouraged not to drive to the peninsula, but to use public transportation, bicycle or walk to the area."
Parking is not allowed along an area of red curb, blocking any driveway, or in any private driveway or parking lot without the owner's permission, notes the city, advising there will be little or no parking available from A Street (near the Balboa Pier) east to Channel Road (the end of the peninsula). No drop offs of passengers is allowed.
"We realize that many find the big waves fun to see, but we also want folks to have a good understanding of what to expect once they arrive here," says Deputy Police Chief David McGill. "There will be very heavy traffic all along the Balboa Peninsula and public parking will be scarce. We ask visitors and residents to please be patient, drive safely and to only park in available public spaces and parking lots. We don't want to see anyone getting a ticket or towed."
Naturally, city lifeguards are also warning that only highly experienced swimmers should venture into the water. A surfer died Tuesday off Malibu. Rip currents have been known to pull swimmers out to sea.