SEAL BEACH (CBSLA.com) — Residents in Seal Beach Wednesday night feared the high tide would flood their coastal homes again after dangerous waves and powerful surge the night before brought about three feet of standing water to the boardwalk.
“By far, this is the worst I’ve seen it in four years,” Seal Beach resident Stacy Ciesa said. “I live on the other side of the pier, where it’s not near as bad, but it’s still high tide over there too.”
The area became flooded earlier Wednesday when the tide cleared a 2-and-a-half foot wall along several blocks of East Seal Way.
“Yesterday, right after high tide, the surf was forecast to be eight to 10 feet, but it jumped to 12 to 14 feet and that caused the water to rush over the berm,” Marine Safety Chief Joe Bailey said.
Firefighters spent Wednesday clearing onlookers from the sand as crews dug a channel that might allow water that breached the beach wall to drain back into the ocean.
“They were coming pretty fast. They’d break way out, but it was like a tsunami, it’d just come [right up to you],” wave watcher Robin Storey said.
Firefighters were called in late Tuesday night, bringing hand-crews, bulldozers and approximately 1,000 sandbags to the area, Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Steve Concialdi said.
They built an 8-foot berm from the pier to 14th Street before another high tide swept in at 11:02 a.m. It didn’t cause any more flooding for coastal homes.
Bulldozers reinforced the berm throughout the day. “I feel a lot safer with that up. I don’t have to worry AS much,” said Seal Beach resident Noah Neimeyer, who had to move his family’s car when the seawater rushed into their garage earlier in the day. “It flooded pretty bad. The table we had in there is probably ruined now.”
Around 100 residents reported waking up to flooding inside their homes Wednesday morning, including Blanca Dubon who said a foot of water rushed in and damaged her floors.
“I got scared. I got panicky,” she said.
Bailey said the flooding cause damage to the boardwalk.
It’s from what officials are calling the strongest south swell to hit the area in 25 years.
Surfers and bodyboarders showed up at dawn to take advantage of the unusually strong surf.
“I think if you’re going to go out, you’ve go to do the buddy system, so you guys kind of keep an eye on each other. Unless you’re really experienced, and even then, sometimes you should have somebody with you,” surfer Joel Kirouac said.
“I would tell people out here, ‘Stand and watch, but don’t go in the water.’ This is for experts only,” Bailey said.
Lifeguards Wednesday morning rescued a body surfer who said he couldn’t stay afloat.
The lifeguard who reached the swimmer was bringing him back to shore when a wave forced the swimmer ahead of his rescuer. Both managed to get back to their feet when another large wave careened into them. A second lifeguard was waiting to help, and the three made their way safely to the sand.
The rescue proved just how dangerous the waves have been, even for experts.
“There are so many rip currents; they are so powerful. And set after set are coming in — and the person doesn’t have the time to recover, take a deep breath — and they’re pounding into the sand,” Concialdi said.