People walk along Santa Monica Beach. (File photo)

SM BEACH — Larger waves will pound the shores of local beaches and strong rip currents are expected to threaten swimmers starting tonight and last through Friday evening, National Weather Service forecasters said.

Gusty winds are also expected to whip across Southern California through at least Friday morning, the result of “a tightening surface pressure gradient” accompanying a passing cold front, according to an advisory by the National Weather Service.

A beach hazard statement will be in force in Los Angeles County through Friday night. Surf will build to 4 to 6 feet with local sets to 8 feet across west facing beaches.

“Elevated surf will create strong and dangerous rip currents in the surf zone as well as waves that can suddenly wash people off rocks and jetties,” the statement read. “Caution should be used when in or near the water. Stay near occupied lifeguard towers and never swim alone.”

If caught in a rip current swim parallel to the shore.

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