Giant waves cap California's remarkable year of weather events

Giant waves hit the California coast on Thursday, causing major headaches, closing beaches and overturning some onlookers watching the extraordinary waterfront spectacle.

Waves as high as 30 feet broke on shores up and down the state, prompting dire warnings. Bay Area Division of the National Weather Service: “The sea is not your friend today!”

High surf warnings remain in effect until early Friday morning, with waves over 40 feet possible, the weather service said. The coastal unrest was caused by a series of storms with hurricane-force winds from the Pacific Ocean, which pushed large waves toward the state.

“Stay away from rocks, jetties, piers and other water infrastructure,” the weather service added. “Never go back to the sea!”

Not everyone took the warnings to heart. A Most shared video on X They were reeling from a huge wave that threw small children to the ground as they watched the surge on West Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz, 75 miles south of San Francisco. The kids were shocked but fine as the water receded.

In 2017, Mr. Hammer and his wife moved to Kingston Lane, which leads up to the beach.

“The only thing we ever have to worry about is the tsunami,” he said with a laugh. “One woman who has lived here for 30 years said she's never seen anything like it.”

In one case, a wave was powerful enough to crash into a seawall, knocking over adults and sending a truck off the road. Eight people were hospitalized with minor injuries in that wave alone, according to Ventura County Fire Department spokesman Andy Vanciver. Posted a video of the incident on X Ten people were rescued from water in the district, he said.

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Peggy Clearwater, 68, said she walked to the beach Thursday from her home in Ventura to survey the storm surge and was surprised by its persistence and strength.

“It's been a whirlwind,” she said.

She said the waves destroyed a bench inscribed with the names of 20 dogs neighbors had lost over the years.

“It's been our little thing for a long time and today we lost it,” he said. “It's gone, but we've already got plans to build another one.”

In the beach town of Stinson Beach, about 20 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge, the local fire department ordered the evacuation of several small roads near the beach because of the risk of damage from waves and coastal flooding. Residents and visitors were told to “evacuate immediately for life safety” and a community center was turned into an evacuation site. The order was later lifted.

Heather VanDress, owner of the Sandpiper Lodging on the beach, said she noticed the tide appeared too high on her morning drive to her hotel, but that it was high enough above the shore that her business was not affected.

Jupiter's waves, he said, were nothing compared to when the city was repeatedly swept away last winter when California was hit by a series of storm surges.

“Last year, it was so bad, people were freaking out — it was bad,” he said. “The beach was really destroyed last year, but it came back.”

Officials in Santa Cruz County warned residents to prepare to evacuate near Seacliff State Beach, not far from where strong waves tore a house off its foundation in January. Elsewhere on Thursday, crews cleared debris strewn along the Coastal Highway, and several car turnstiles near area beaches were closed. Some streets in the area were flooded.

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But the storm surge brought excitement — at least among the big-wave surfers at Mavericks, a popular surf break off Half Moon Bay Beach about 30 miles south of San Francisco.

A local surf cam Waves measured in “XXL” were 30 to 40 feet high. Crowds of people lined the rocks to witness the spectacle.

As residents cleaned up in Ventura, they knew more storm conditions and bigger waves were expected Friday.

“I'm very worried about tomorrow,” said Mr. Hammer said.

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