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Oversized Waves Continue Battering US West Coast

Seaside cities and towns in California and the broader American West Coast have received evacuation orders and storm surge warnings as a spate of unusually high waves enters its fourth day, with some areas also suffering severe flooding. The waves, caused by a storm system over the Pacific Ocean, have caused damage to homes, streets, cars, piers, and hotels, and pose a significant drowning risk for those who have not vacated the area.

Damage All Along The Coast

The surging waves have reached an average height of 20 feet across the entire coast, with the San Francisco Bay Area potentially facing breakers as high as 26-30 feet; meanwhile, the Oregon coast is threatened by 25-foot waves. The great size of the waves has overwhelmed anti-flooding measures such as seawalls and levees in multiple locations by the Pacific.

Ventura County, northwest of Los Angeles, has suffered the most flooding, with local structures damaged by both water and debris; in addition, eight locals were injured after being swept away by the waves, according to Reuters and CNN. Officials have closed all beaches in the county and issued evacuation orders, which have since been lifted as of December 30.

The city of Cannon Beach, in Clatsop County, northern Oregon, has also suffered severe storm surges and debris-laden floods, which have swept objects as large as logs over 100 yards inland. The local fire department and beach rescue personnel have reported a severe disregard for safety among local beachgoers, many of whom allowed their children to brave the high swells unattended. The high waves have hampered rescue efforts, forcing local departments to call for faraway Coast Guard assistance. 

An Unexpected Benefit

While damaging and potentially deadly, the recent ocean upheaval has a silver lining for some. With waves breaking over a mile offshore, a rare occurrence, surfers in Southern California have headed out to offshore oil rigs to catch the unprecedented swells; the most skilled surfers can ride the massive waves to shore. Officials in areas affected by the storm surges have warned against this practice due to the great danger involved, and the closure of beaches has prevented surfers from exploiting the waves in most affected regions.


Image credits: Getty Images, Mavericks Surf Awards/Daniel Gorostieta

Edited by: Matsoarelo Makuke


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