California’s first huge swells of the winter are wreaking havoc on the state’s coastline as an incoming atmospheric river storm forces evacuations amid flooding of beach and coastal roads.
The extreme weather has been blamed for several injuries, ocean rescues, flooding and evacuation orders at coastal cities through the state. Ventura County was particularly hard hit.
In Ventura County, waves of up to 12 feet have already been reported, and the Central Coast has seen 18- to 20-foot swells, said Mike Wofford with the National Weather Service’s Oxnard office.
High surf advisories remained in effect throughout Ventura County on Thursday, with local officials imploring the community to stay away from the water as multiple rescues were conducted in the morning.
Eight people sustained minor to moderate injuries and were taken to the hospital after large waves caused flooding near South Seaward Avenue at approximately 10:50 a.m. Thursday, Ventura County Fire Department Captain Brian McGrath said.
Of the injured, some were located in the Inn On The Beach, a boutique hotel located on the beach now closed due to flooding, he said.
The Ventura County Fire Department also rescued at least 15 people out of the ocean Thursday morning during high tide, McGrath added. None sustained injuries, he said.
At the Inn on the Beach, located on Seaward Avenue, things were messy.
The floor of the lobby was covered in mud and sand. The carpet squished with water as Jay Williams, the manager, walked across it.
At around 10:45 a.m., a rogue wave had slammed into the hotel, flooding rooms with nearly 2 feet of water.
The force of the wave smashed glass that has been on the patios of rooms facing the ocean.
The wall of water tossed furniture to and fro. Desks and beds and dressers stood at odd angles inside rooms, covered in mud.
Luckily no guests were injured, although some were stuck in their rooms for a short time.
Around 45 guests were evacuated from the hotel, which will have to close for an unknown amount of time.
“The beach had a lot of looky loos out here,” Williams said. Before the wave hit the hotel, the scene outside was joyful. “There was a couple smaller bigger waves that came in, washed a railroad tie out in the street here. Kids were giggling.”
But once waves began reaching the street, the situation changed. One wave that washed onto Seaward dragged a man a short distance down the street. And people became trapped near their cars.
All beaches in Ventura County are closed until further notice, McGrath said.
The closure extended to Faria Beach Campground, which sustained damages from the waves.
“Riprap rocks were thrown into the middle of the roadway, gravel and mud are everywhere, picnic tables and fire rings were tossed to the other side of the park and extensive flooding” occurred, according to county officials.
Evacuation orders were issued for parts of Marin County, and residents were ordered to evacuate to Stinson Beach Community Center.
Santa Cruz County issued an evacuation warning Thursday on X, formerly known as Twitter, for coastal areas near Seacliff State Beach because of flooding.
Within the evacuation area, the tourist hot spot known as the Rio del Mar Esplanade is currently flooded with several inches of stormwater. On X, the California Highway Patrol cautions that residents avoid the area and not attempt to drive across or through.