The National Weather Service has issued a high surf advisory for the region with a specific warning for local beaches.
The advisory extends through 3 a.m. Wednesday morning. Experts are predicting surf up to 10 feet by Tuesday morning. The highest surf will be on west facing beaches from Palos Verdes to Santa Monica and from Point Dume to Zuma Beach.
According to experts, high surf may cause beach erosion on exposed west facing shores and the movement of sand into the ocean can create dangerous rip currents.
Rip currents are powerful channels of water flowing away from shore and are common on many beaches. With changing speeds and patterns, they can be difficult to navigate even for strong swimmers and surfers.
“Especially now with the beach erosion sand pushed out into the ocean creating sand bars and holes, and it’s those large holes that create rip currents that are large and are consistent,” said ocean lifeguard specialist Spencer Parker.
Parker said anyone visiting the beach should check in with the lifeguard to determine the current conditions, identify hazards and get the forecast.
“The hazards are always where the hole is, so anytime someone’s getting close we can race down there and talk to them,” he said. “It’s a little bit more difficult when they are more random and occur out of the blue and sweep down the beach.”
People caught in rip currents should not try to swim against the currents, officials said. Rather, they should escape the currents by swimming parallel to shore or tread water until the currents subside.
The National Weather service said large waves and strong currents would create a risk of ocean drowning and sneaker waves can suddenly overrun previously dry beaches or jetties.
Parker said the common problem during high surf conditions is swimmers or surfers who find themselves overwhelmed by the conditions. He said many beachgoers know to be aware of the water conditions before entering, but there are always a few people that find themselves in trouble.
“We want beachgoers to check in with the lifeguard when they get to the beach and if they do go in the water, surf and swim in front of an open lifeguard tower and surf and swim within your abilities,” he said. “The bigger the waves, the bigger the rip current. If you can, remain calm and wait for help. If you feel like you can make an attempt at self-rescue, swim parallel to the shore to get out of the rip current.”
To spot a rip current, look for a channel of churning water, water that is a different color, a line of foam moving seaward or a break in the incoming wave pattern.
Swimmers that become unable to reach the shore should face the shore and draw attention by waving or shouting.
Spectators who observe someone in distress should get help from a lifeguard, yell instructions if no lifeguard is present and/or throw something that floats to the victim. Do not enter the water and become another victim.
Drivers should also watch for flooding of low lying beach parking lots, harbor walkways and campgrounds with the risk of coastal flooding highest during the times of high tide (6 – 10 a.m. on Tuesday).
For more information, visit http://www.fire.lacounty.gov/lifeguard/rip-currents.